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 240.

    Civil servants on an ego trip, its a disgrace, what is this country coming to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    I don't think people mind the necessary contributions for essential local services. This is NOT what we get, and there is a lot of waste. In our town the council knocked down a complete block of shops, to enhance the look of the town centre church. How much was that ? They moved into an expensive brand new rented building when their existing one was perfectly services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    We can't have a quality service without spending money, and even council workers need pay rises. However I agree that the money spent should be more accountable. We have a local council that want to spend 20k carrying out a survey to see if people want parking charges. The Jeremy Vine show today talked about a council spending 10k on a spare Mayors chain.Come on councillors show some common sense

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Its time for central government and local government expenditure to be separated to end this blaming each other culture which is anti democratic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Wandsworth Council is now nothing but a giant parking-lot operator with a £25 million net income from that activity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Re 212. It doesn't take much savvy to see what a council is/isn't doing - just walk or drive around your locality to see rubbish strewn streets & more potholes than road. Add to to that the services you can no longer access or the ones that now have massive waiting lists. People have a feel for value for money & when you look at what you are charged monthly, you know what your council's up to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Omnishambles, what's the Goverment going to do about this?
    Probably nothing or a u-turn I expect.

    Never trust the Tories.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    if this money is available from Central Government and isn't taken by the councils, how do we as individuals go about claiming it to offset this increase? seems only fair!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    217. ravenmorpheus2k
    Lets put it this way - who is more able to pay more..."

    The bigger picture is 'who helps the British economy more?' The person who is struggling and has to buy cheap imports, or the person who is more comfortable and can afford local craftsmen and products?

    Of course, one solution is to tax the wealthy more, so that they can only afford cheap imports as well - that'll help!

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    To 217
    So you are saying that the rich as well as paying much more tax than others should also pay more for the same services ?Don't dispute that they have larger net income but that isnt the point.The truth is that they do pay more than their share & there are feckless people living off others. That is the truth. Feel free to downgrade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.


    "A better way of looking at it is how much a person is left with at the end of a month/year. And the wealthy are left with far more than the rest of us are after general taxation and basic bills."

    Unless they are from the tiny handful who have inherited huge wealth or won the lottery, the wealthy are wealthy because they worked hard for it. Don't like it, then work harder!

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Some people would say these increases are simply financing too many fat-cat pensions for too many fat-cats and not much else ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Another broken Coalition promise !

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    1 Minute ago
    Why is there only a 25% discount for single occupancy? Amount should be based on amount of adults in property


    That would be the Poll Tax you are advocating rejected by riots before & if reintroduced rejected again I would suspect..

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Why do people talk about tax as if its a bad thing???

    We all benefit from it people! Raise Council Tax much more I say....

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Waste is not controlled. Councils make 'investments' with council funds. This was clear after the Iceland Banks problem. Civil Servants have nice salaries and lovely pensions that private funded individuals cannot afford.
    Council accounts should be fully declared and transparent before they request to jack up the charges. Councils are inefficient presently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    The years of kidding ourselves we are a rich country are over.

    Councils need to cut pay & pensions starting at the top.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Council tax needs a serious rethink. Charge per person, not per household. Reduced rates for children, OAPs, students, unemployed, like any other service. Relate the charge to income, not property value, so tenants don't get it in the neck. Be upfront about the costs of running individual council services, not just police and fire contributions. Actually deliver what is promised. Is that so hard?

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Let's not let the headline get us away from the fact that most councils are now run by labour, are they seriously saying there isn't some sort of political war here?
    the whole system is messed up, councils have too much politics and power. edinburgh is building a tram that no one wants, destroying businesses. let's have some discussion on how to run our councils for starters!

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Lucky England...
    Here in Wales we have nanny Welsh Labour and they're not forwarding on the money to keep Council Tax down.
    They think they know best and are spending the money for us.
    My Council Tax is going up in Pembrokeshire.


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