Page last updated at 01:02 GMT, Monday, 19 January 2009

Council tax bills 'to rise 3.5%'

Council tax bill
The average household could face a 48 annual rise from April.

Council taxpayers in England are facing a 3.5% rise this spring - the lowest in more than a decade - according to Local Government Association figures.

The projected increase is based on a survey of 140 councils and police and fire authorities by the LGA.

It is below the CPI rate of inflation - the government's preferred rate - now running at 4.1%, but above the retail price index which stands at 3%.

A 3.5% increase in April would take the average bill for 2009-10 to 1,421.

This would be a rise of 48 over the year, or 92p a week.

The LGA said that councils were doing their best to hold down tax increases at a time of economic hardship but the Tories described the rise as a "kick in the teeth" for families and pensioners.

Councils are facing a 2.5 billion fall in revenues, claimed the LGA, as income from service charges and capital receipts from land and property drop off.

Councils are making services more efficient and they recognise that tax increases need to be kept to the absolute minimum
LGA chairman Margaret Eaton
One in seven councils has already had to cut jobs in recent months while one in five have introduced a recruitment freeze, it added.

At the same time, the downturn is adding to the pressure on services with more people applying for housing benefit, rising homelessness, and an increase in demand for debt advice.

LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said that despite the difficulties, local authorities were doing their best to limit the rises in council tax.

"Money is tight for everyone and nobody likes paying more council tax, but town halls are making enormous efforts to keep bills down," she said.

"Councils understand that people are suffering and they're working flat out to keep council tax down, to keep local businesses afloat and help people deal with the impact of the recession.

'Kick in the teeth'

"More people are turning to councils to help them through the recession. Councils are responding by making services more efficient and they recognise that tax increases need to be kept to the absolute minimum."

Shadow local government secretary Eric Pickles said: "At a time when so many people are struggling to pay their bills and fear losing their jobs, this latest round of council tax hikes from Gordon Brown is a kick in the teeth.


Now is the time for a fairer local tax based on your ability to pay, not the value of your home

Julia Golsworthy, Lib Dem local government spokeswoman

"Council tax will now take 120 a month out of people's pay packets and pensions.

"A Conservative Government would help freeze council tax for two years, cancel Labour's forthcoming council tax revaluation and give new powers to local residents to veto high council tax rises."

Liberal Democrat local government spokeswoman Julia Goldsworthy said that the increases underlined the need reform of the system of local government finance.

"With the recession beginning to bite, any attempt to keep council tax rises to a minimum will be extremely welcome," she said.

"Now is the time for a fairer local tax based on your ability to pay, not the value of your home."

The Department for Communities and Local Government said that councils had been told consistently that they must keep average council tax rises "substantially below" 5%.

"We all recognise that this will be a tough year for many people and they need their councils to provide real help with strong services and fair local tax," a spokesman said.

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SEE ALSO
Council tax rises 'under control'
26 Nov 08 |  UK Politics
Councils face funding shortfalls
26 Nov 08 |  Lincolnshire
Council fund spending criticised
24 Oct 08 |  West Midlands

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