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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 11:01 GMT
Bristol voters say no to tax increase

Bristol voters opt to freeze council tax
People in one of Britain's biggest cities have voted against putting up council tax to raise money for extra services.

In a referendum held by Labour-controlled Bristol City Council, more than half of voters opted for a freeze on spending levels rather than three other options which would have seen council tax increases of up to 6%.

More than 115,000 people took part in the referendum -with the turnout significantly higher than at the last local elections.

Bristol Poll Result
No rise - 61,664
2% rise - 11,962
4% rise - 20,829
6% rise - 19,841
The council has warned that the decision could mean big cuts in services, mainly in education.

The final decision will be taken after a debate and a vote of the full council.

The poll in Bristol, which cost 120,000, is the first time the voters of a major English city have been asked to state their preferences in this way.

High turnout

The results - counted by Electoral Reform Services in London - should have been announced at a news conference on Thursday, but leaks to the media prompted the council to bring their publication forward.

Votes being counted
The vote was decisive
The chief executive of Electoral Reform Services, Owen Thomas, said the referendum is likely to lead to more local authorities holding similar ballots.

He said: "We had a lot of local authorities ringing us and wanting to know how these sorts of things are carried out. I do expect it to increase.

"It is an opportunity for people in Bristol to have a say in what level of council tax they want."

The council is refusing to speculate on where cuts might have to be made, but a spokesman pointed out that education accounted for the largest slice of the city's budget.

It is an opportunity for people to have a say in what level of council tax they want

Electoral Reform Services

The leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, Councillor Barbara Janke said: "Given that Bristol still has one of the highest council taxes in the country, it was predictable that people would not vote for a rise.

"Liberal Democrats will respect the result of the referendum and understand why people wish to see their council tax frozen. "But we will not slash the education budget simply to save money.

Local Conservative Pam Chesters has welcomed the result.

She said: "Bristol residents are tired of paying excessive stealth taxes for little result."

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Council holds tax referendum
31 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Council tax soars above inflation
24 Feb 99 | UK Politics
Milton Keynes votes for tax hike
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