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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 06:44 GMT
Councils 'should not be capped'
Council tax demo
Council tax rises have sparked protests in many regions
It would be wrong for ministers to use their capping powers to limit council tax rises, local authority leaders say.

The Local Government Association warning comes as English councils have to set their budgets for next year.

The average tax rise is expected to be 6% but some councils are likely to set rises of above 10%. Ministers have said "excessive" rises may be capped.

But the LGA said independent checks would be unlikely to find evidence of unreasonable or excessive spending.

Independent survey

It argues that the rises are even lower than Chancellor Gordon Brown's forecasts of 7.2%.

Pensioners in many parts of the UK have been conducting a high-profile campaign against big rises in council tax, with some risking jail if they fail to pay up.

However, an independent survey by CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy - in conjunction with BBC Radio 4's Today programme - earlier this month said the average rise for a band D property would be 6% or 62 for 2004-05.
I think it is likely we will be using our capping powers
Local Government Minister
Nick Raynsford

Last year's average tax increase was around 12.9% and CIPFA said its findings suggested March's increases would be the lowest in Band D since 1996.

At the time, Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford said he was encouraged by evidence that some councils have listened to calls to lower their council tax increases to an average of around 6%.

'Unreasonable burden

But he said there was no room for complacency, adding: "There are still authorities whose increases are significantly above this average."

He pledged that the government would use capping powers where an "unreasonable burden" was placed on council tax payers.

"With the kind of levels being talked about in some areas, which are in double figures and imply quite large budget increases, then I think it is likely we will be using our capping powers," he said.

Ministers are due to start examining council budgets in detail next week, but BBC Local Government Correspondent Jon Andrew said no announcements about capping were likely to be made until well into April.


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