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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 February, 2004, 08:07 GMT
Councils named in tax row
Council tax form
Council tax levels are due to be set on 1 March
Four councils in Kent and East Sussex have been criticised in the Commons over plans to impose high council tax rises in the coming year.

Dover and Medway councils were criticised, along with Brighton and Hove City Council and Rother District Council for high predicted increases.

The councils have been warned to rethink the hikes or be penalised by a government tax cap.

A total of 65 authorities face action if they go ahead with the increases.

It is the poor council tax payer that is going to suffer because of this
Paul Watkins, Dover District Council leader
Local Government minister Nick Raynsford said that generous grants for the coming year meant there was no justification for unreasonably large rises.

Councils who plan to increase council tax by more than 5% could be capped, Mr Raynsford has warned.

Dover, Medway, Brighton and Hove and Rother councils were specifically named in the Commons for their planned double figure tax increase.

A rise of 17.1% has been predicted by bosses at Dover District Council although the level will not be set until 1 March.

Council leader Paul Watkins said the rise is needed to maintain the level of services the authorities provide.

He said many initiatives, such as Operation Cubit - where untaxed and dumped cars are crushed - do not receive any money from Government.

Mr Watkins said the capping would mean a large reduction in services.

"They (the government) cannot have it all ways. If they want services provided they have to pay for it - they have under funded us by 4%.

"They are asking us to provide things that they do not pay us to do.

"It is the poor council tax payer that is going to suffer because of this, either by a reduction in services or by an increase in council tax."

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