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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK
Councils angry at tax-cap warning
Council tax form
Council tax bills have risen sharply this year
Councils have reacted angrily to a government warning that council tax rises could be capped next year.

Council tax bills rose sharply this year, with increases averaging nearly 13% among English councils.

Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford warned on Monday that that was an unsustainable rate.

He warned councils that though ministers have not forcibly reduced budgets this year, they may do so next.

"Local authorities should be aware that we are prepared to use our targeted capping powers in 2004/05," he said.

Ministers are even prepared to cap councils classed as excellent by the Audit Commission - despite an undertaking that they would not do so.

Public disquiet

There have been signs of growing discontent among the public at council tax bills in recent months.

A Band D house - reckoned to be an average home - now has a typical annual council tax bill of over 1,000.

Some pensioners have already begun protesting that they cannot afford such rates.

Last week the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority warned of possible civil unrest over the issue.

The government blames councils for over-spending.

But the Local Government Association says the best way to ensure sensible rises next year is to properly fund increased spending in services like education.

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