Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

Lowest tax bill rise for 15 years

Bank notes
The Conservatives said there should have been no rise at all

England's Band D council tax is to rise by an average of 3%, the lowest rise in 15 years, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The average Band D bill for April 2009 to April 2010 will be £1,414, compared with £1,373 for the previous year.

Overall, there will be an average council tax rise per home of 2.6% - up to £1,175 from £1,145.

The Local Government Association (LGA) responded by urging the government not to cap any councils this year.

Local Government Minister John Healey said: "Most councils across the country are tightening their belts, which is exactly what the public wants to see.

"With a tough economic year ahead, councils will need to do even more to control costs and I remain ready to be tough with capping powers to protect council taxpayers from excessive increases."

LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said: "Many councils revised down council tax rises this year to minimise household costs for residents.

Labour's refusal to follow the example of Scotland and freeze council tax bills in England is unfair
Caroline Spelman
Shadow local government secretary

"Given that town halls have made such efforts to keep council tax down this year, we would not expect the government to cap any councils."

But the Conservatives said there should be no increases at all.

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "At a time when millions of workers are facing pay freezes or unemployment this year, it adds insult to injury to drive up bills by a further £41 a year, on top of previous years' rises.

"Labour's refusal to follow the example of Scotland and freeze council tax bills in England is unfair on English taxpayers, who yet again have received a raw deal."

Meanwhile, the government plans to cap the council tax increases set by two police authorities - Derbyshire and Surrey.

It is the second successive year Surrey has faced the sanction - the first time that has happened for 12 years.

Council tax gathered from local residents is shared between a number of bodies, including the council, police and fire services.

Police authorities set the amount their share rises by, but only to a limit - ministers do not allow inflation-busting increases, and can force a cap on the demands.

Mr Healey told the Commons he was disappointed he had to take action against Surrey for a second year.

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