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More than 40% of town halls in council tax hike revolt as they shun Pickles's plans for a freezeGovernment offer grants equal to 1 per cent rise to keep council tax frozenSurvey found 41 per cent of English councils plan a tax increase next year
Daily Mail Reporter
01:59 GMT, 28 February 2013
01:59 GMT, 28 February 2013
Brave face: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has yet again promised grants to English councils to keep tax rate
More than 40 per cent of town halls plan to increase council tax this year in a major revolt against the Government’s wish to freeze local bills.
For a third year, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has offered councils in England the cash equivalent of a 1 per cent rise in grants return for keeping their rates to local taxpayers the same.
Around 85 per cent took up the offer last year but that number is likely to plunge, according to figures compiled by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
With just over half of billing authorities already confirming their intentions, it found 41 per cent aimed to forego the grant and push up council tax for 2013/14.
It means there will be an average increase of 0.8 per cent across England – almost three times last year’s 0.3 per cent increase – adding an average of 11.74 to the annual bill for a Band D property.
There are big regional variations with an average 1.2 per cent rise due across Yorkshire and Humber – adding 16.30 to Band D – while in Greater London the rise would be just 0.1 per cent.
Mr Pickles insisted the 0.8 per cent rise was a cut in real terms. ‘This Government has worked to freeze council tax for three years, helping hard-working families and pensioners with their cost of living.
'This survey confirms that council tax will effectively be frozen again this year, with an average change of a mere 0.8 per cent.’
Town halls fear that unless they impose modest rises this year, they will be forced into more dramatic hikes in future when there is no Whitehall cash to soften the blow.
Cipfa’s director of policy Ian Carruthers said the squeezed budgets meant councils had to ‘strike an increasingly difficult balance’ between tax rises and service cuts.
‘Councillors must take council tax decisions based on local priorities,’ he said.
‘As the pressures from this period of
unprecedented austerity intensify, all councils are having to strike an
increasingly difficult balance between protecting hard-pressed taxpayers
and maintaining local services.
Regional hikes: The increase in Greater London, pictured, is set to be just 0.1 per cent, compared to the 1.2 per cent rise in Yorkshire and Humber
‘The imminent changes to local authority funding systems are bringing added uncertainty to councils’ financial management and making it more difficult than ever for councillors to take the medium and longer term decisions required.’
Mr Pickles said: ‘Council tax more than doubled under Labour.
‘But this Government has worked to freeze council tax for three years, helping hard-working families and pensioners with their cost of living.
‘This survey confirms that council tax will effectively be frozen again this year, with an average change across England of just a mere 0.8 per cent. This is a tax cut in real terms.
‘Ed Miliband’s Labour Party opposes freezing council tax, which shows how Labour remain addicted to higher taxes, and are on the side of bureaucracy, wasteful spending and not the taxpayer.’
Mr Pickles has ordered any council which seeks a rise of 2 per cent or more to put it to a local referendum and has told those considering rises just short of that they are ‘cheating’ taxpayers.