Page last updated at 21:27 GMT, Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Council tax rise is "lowest ever"

Paul Barltrop
Political editor, BBC News, West

Gloucestershire County Council is planning its lowest ever increase in council tax despite the economic downturn affecting its budgets.

The projected increase is 2.9% which is less than the rate of inflation.

Finance officers say high energy costs for running everything from street lights to council buildings has put pressure on budgets.

The county council also has 12m of its reserves tied up in frozen Icelandic bank accounts.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats say improvements to services may be sacrificed in favour of lower taxes.

Efficiency savings

The six smaller district councils of Gloucestershire have also been setting out their plans for the 2009/10 financial year.

They have to meet strict government guidelines limiting the amount council tax can go up.

Stroud hopes to hold the increase to 3.5%.

That will be partly paid for by an increase in council house rents, which will go up by 6.2%.

The councils know how much money they will get from central government for the next two years.

But Whitehall expects them all to make efficiency savings. If not, there will have to be cuts.

The final figures will be known when the budgets are set in early 2009.

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