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Tuesday, February 23, 1999 Published at 15:23 GMT

UK Politics

Milton Keynes votes for tax hike

Nearly 70% of voters backed a rise

The people of Milton Keynes have chosen to give themselves a council tax hike of 10% in a referendum organised by the local council.

This is the first time such a referendum has been held and the council are hoping it will prevent the government from capping them for over charging.

Council leader Kevin Wilson told BBC News Online he was "delighted" by the result of the referendum and said the referendum did not mean that people liked high taxes but they had, "clearly voted to maintain their council services".

"The referendum gave the people an opportunity to be masters rather than servants," he said.

Mr Wilson added the referendum had succeeded in its aim of reconnecting people with local government and gave public backing for council tax rises.

Mr Wilson said because of the ballot there would be no need to take any "draconian measures" in cutting public services as would have been the case if people had only voted for a 5% rise.

To cap or not to cap?

Whether or not the government decides to cap the increase in taxation remains to be seen but Mr Wilson did admit it "poses the government with an interesting question".

Over 45% of the voters took part in the ballot - a figure 20% higher than that for the last council elections and a greater turnout than London managed when the capital voted to have a directly-elected mayor.

Voters were given three options to chose from: a 5% rise, a 9.8% rise and a 15% rise.

Over 46% backed the 9.8% rise while nearly 24% plumped for a 15% rise in their taxes.

The ballot was organised for the council by the Electoral Reform Society.

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