Politics: Council tax rise is double the rate of inflation

ALTHOUGH council tax is set to rise next month by double the rate of inflation, increases are less than they would have been had councils not made considerable savings on their 1998-99 budgets, some of them involving painful cuts in social-care programmes, libraries and repairs.

The 8.5 per cent average - 12 per cent in Wales - also reflects the determination of Labour councillors not to embarrass the Blair regime. In London and the metropolitan districts, councillors have made a special effort to keep taxes down because 1998 is an election year. Long-suffering council tax payers in Lambeth will see the council - where no single party has overall control - cut tax by just over 1 per cent. Next door ,Tory controlled Wandsworth is going further, chopping the tax by one-quarter.

Changes in grant distribution have hit the shire counties hard, especially those in the Midlands and South-east. In the shires, where council tax is levied and collected by the districts, rises will average 11 per cent.

The average increase of 8.5 per cent adds pounds 60 to the tax payable on a band D property, bringing the total payment to pounds 748. But the averages conceal some large cash outlays for householders. Although council tax increased by only 5.5 per cent in the city, Liverpool residents in band D properties will be paying more than pounds 1,100 for the services of a council which, despite efforts to improve, still scores badly on tests of municipal efficiency. The council said most homes were in the lower bands and many householders were on benefits and so paid nothing.

Another council formerly considered far to the left, Hackney in east London, is this year asking its council tax payers for zero extra compared with 1997-98 - and this is despite a 20 plus per cent increase in the amount the borough has to collect on behalf of the Metropolitan Police. Labour Party factions are currently struggling for control in the borough.

The Government was busy yesterday rebutting the charge that it had discriminated against rural areas. Local government minister Nick Raynsford asserted that the distribution of grants was fair; they were working within a budget bequeathed by the Tories.

He added that the Government was reviewing the basics of local government finance and was tackling unfairnesses such as calculating tourist numbers as if they were local inhabitants - this revision would further hit Tory Westminster, which is suffering a major loss of grant this year. Westminster is increasing its council tax by nearly 7 per cent, although the average payment for Band D properties (pounds 325) will still be well below the London average.

Mr Raynsford said that variations in council tax reflected the vitality of local democratic choice. "If we wanted a standard council tax everywhere we wouldn't have local government, just administration of central government services," he added.

The Tories, true to form, claimed that Conservative councils were more careful with taxpayers' money. The Tory environment spokesman, Sir Norman Fowler, said that the average Conservative council tax in 1998-9 would be pounds 615 for occupants of band D properties, while the Labour average in 1997-98 was already more than pounds 740.

How the increases could affect you

Newbury 20%

Devon 19.4%

Hillingdon 12.2%

Wakefield 11.8%

Camden 9.9%

Newcastle 9.1%

Westminster 6.9%

Manchester 5.7%

Islington 3.7%

Wigan 0%

Lambeth -1.2%

Wandsworth -24.5%

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence