Council tax increases despite government incentives

Council tax bill The government has asked councils to freeze local taxes for the third year running

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More than 40% of councils in England are planning to increase council tax this year, according to a survey.

This is despite local authorities being offered money by the government to freeze bills.

However the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) survey suggested that the overall average increase would be less than 1%.

The Local Government Association said it had been a difficult decision for councils in the face of cuts.

Local authorities in England are being given extra money by central government for the third year running if they freeze bills.

But this time a larger number of councils are increasing council tax (41%) - last year 85% took up the government's offer.

Tight budgets

Cipfa said 102 out of 250 authorities surveyed planned to put up council tax in April, typically by about 1% percent.

Any increase over 2% percent is supposed to trigger a local referendum - but some councils are finding ways to increase it by more than that without a poll.

These councils have taken legal advice and plan to use a loophole that allows them to increase waste and transport costs by more than the 2% cap. Others have opted to put up taxes by 1.99%.

Start Quote

All councils are having to strike an increasingly difficult balance between protecting hard-pressed taxpayers and maintaining local services”

End Quote Ian Carruthers Director of policy, Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

A small number of authorities are managing to reduce council tax by finding more efficient ways to deliver services.

Regional variations included an average 1.2% rise across Yorkshire and Humber, and a 0.1% increase in London.

Cipfa director of policy Ian Carruthers said tight budgets meant councils had to make difficult choices between tax rises and cuts in services.

"Councillors must take council tax decisions based on local priorities," he said.

"As the pressures from this period of unprecedented austerity intensify, all councils are having to strike an increasingly difficult balance between protecting hard-pressed taxpayers and maintaining local services.

"The imminent changes to local authority funding systems are bringing added uncertainty to councils' financial management and making it more difficult than ever for councillors to take the medium and longer term decisions required."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the small average increase across England meant it was "a tax cut in real terms".

'Fully accountable'

A Local Government Association spokesman said: "This has been a tricky decision for councils.

"Collectively local authorities are facing a 33% cut in funding from government at the same time as the cost of providing services like adult social care is climbing through the roof.

"The council tax grant from government is very small when set against those pressures and it lasts just two years with no certainty beyond that.

"Ultimately councils have to take a long-term view. Some have clearly decided that increasing council tax is one way of meeting current costs and alleviating pressure in the longer term.

"Councils are fully accountable to their electorates for these decisions."

The Conservative leader of one council putting up tax - Canterbury City Council's John Gilbey - told BBC Radio 4's Today the government subsidy was for a limited amount of time.

This meant, he said, that when the extra money to freeze council tax ended, "you're still losing that permanent element of a tax base".

He added: "Don't forget we've got no compensation now, ever, for inflation. Our services, cost of services are going up, we're determined to keep a high standard of those services as long as possible, and also, in the end, to keep services going."

Asked about being a "democracy dodger" by increasing council tax by just below the 2% trigger for a referendum, he said that holding such a vote would cost up to £200,000.

He questioned why the government set the 2% trigger level if they were not happy for councils to go up to that figure.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    @111 Ravenmorpheus. I'd like to see the job description for that role. I sincerely doubt that the employees sole responsibility is to monitor Facebook and Twitter. Often these roles are taken by IT, HR or Info Management types (such as the webmaster). Whether we like it or not these forms of communication are with us to stay and tight rules exist for their use by LA's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    There is a wage freeze on lower staff in councils and has been for years but no freeze on price rises charged by companies supplying these councils. The Tory politically driven agenda to get rid of all council services continues apace. When people have cash starved services then the 'miracle' of private services will replace them. All politically driven.

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    Re: 115 RW49. We don't use the word "fraud" regarding public servants, that's far too harsh, call it "false accounting", much nicer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    Funny how my comments on my local town were removed. I just stated that we have officially recognised poor schools. No police station. The police are in the town hall Mon-Fri 9-5, we have no post office bar a portacabin and the local recycling centre is shut half the week and as soon as you get one snow flake it shuts.

    Why is that offensive? I thought I lived in a democracy and I could say this

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    @132 glamorgan9560

    It will be one to change the bulb. But with the various committees set up to investigate the type of light bulb and the effect it has on the environment and those whose areas will be lit by it then the Risk Assessment and purchasing of the correct safety gear followed by an in depth study in to the after effects of the selected bulb. The numbers could run into the thousands!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    @ 132. Answer to your question. It takes one to change the bulb and 250 councillors to sit around and pat themselves on the back for making a change. That would of course require a day out somewhere, an overnight stay perhaps, food, drink, entertainment etc etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Scrap this grossly unfair tax. Having a house to live in does not mean you have any income to pay from, be you rich or poor in assets. Multiple occupancy not costing more is another unfairness, penalising the single and even couples over big families. Vastly most of council cash comes from central government anyway. Scrap the tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    Its all well and good the government saying freeze your CTax and we'll give you some money. That money will have to be paid back in some way, at some time. So as long as councils don't take the 'p' I don't mind. BUT, CTax needs a massive review, as this tax is starting to become unaffordable for a great many people. We are taxed in so many ways that this needs sorting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Many have fallen for Tory fibs and believe it's the council's fault that services are being lost, but Central Govt is squeezing local Govt and blaming local Govt when services collapse. The Tories are dismantling the welfare state but local Govt is getting the blame. Cue stories about Town Halls paved with gold etc to make it appear that cuts are all the fault of local Govt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    There is only one fair tax and that is a tax on earnings
    I agree, but the problem is government and councils define what counts as 'earnings.'
    Many pensioners are being robbed by having savings classed as 'income', so taxed twice then struggling.

    Abolish irrational tax on houses and mediaeval panoply of courts and baliffs.

    Time for national rage protests.

  • Comment number 150.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    I agree with No123 comments, it should be published the pay off of council employees.
    There seems to be alot of designer jobs to cover jobs that managers do nhot take responsible for in local goverment.
    When will we get back to having proper define rolls to show who in charge of what with the purpose of having an effiecently run services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    The upside for Durham residents is that council tax has been frozen again for 2013, phew!

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Between 1996 and 2008 local councils saw an explosion of management pay.

    People who were lucky to earn £30k are now on £100k, many of them very poor managers. Rather than cull the high earners or reverse the mad pay increases, they seek to make the poor hapless ratepayer meet the wage bill.

    These out of control councils should be purged and a new start made based on common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    Most of the increases are for wages i bet... Although inflationary rises for workers i can digest, when i look at councillors wages, i vomit. The roads near me are disgusting, even the public paths are broken an awful. My streetlight doesnt work, hasnt for ages and yet the councils dream up wonderful and stupid ways of increasing our bill. Just get back to basics and oust the fat cats!

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    @77. blastygoose
    Council tax is a disaster but the poll tax was also totally stupid. The unemployed and pensioners paying the same as billionaire bankers? Bonkers.
    As I say, fund from central government and stop ALL council tax charges/fees/taxes. Let them spend ONLY what is given. Give on the basis of business and people in the area.
    I live in one county, work in another, do sport in a third.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    We have been told our council tax is being raised to help raise the funds to employ 12 more Police officers. . . . . . .but Police are having their wages cut. Did they think we wouldn't suss the bull?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    My big moan concerns inefficiency.

    We moan about, for example the cost of keeping our streets clean, grass mown etc, but never ask local citizens to volunteer to do this work. How much could council tax be reduced if we mowed the grass outside our own houses, possibly in return for some token benefit?

    The same for policing. Neighbourhood watch cuts police costs yet is not helped by councils.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    BEWARE: this government is steadily shifting services onto local government. When they release the floodgates council tax will rocket while we continue to pay state taxes at the same rate - or more!

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Just while we are all sitting in front of our computers, why not all of us send an e mail to our local councillor saying if you increase council tax we will not vote for you?


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