Rises in council tax to average 6.2%

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The Independent Online

Political Correspondent

The average council tax bill for a middle-priced band D house will be pounds 647 for the new financial year starting next month - a rise of 6.2 per cent - David Curry, the local government minister, announced yesterday.

Labour accused the Government of driving up council tax to pay for the 1p income tax cut announced in last November's Budget. Frank Dobson, Labour's environment spokesman, said: "Their Budget decision to reduce the grant to local councils means that in most parts of the country, people face a council tax increase."

The Conservative Party chairman, Brian Mawhinney, said the figures showed huge rises under Labour-run councils. "Council taxes are rising so much this year because they are set by Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians. These rises are unacceptable. Band for band, Labour politicians have set their council taxes almost 50 per cent higher than Conservatives," he said.

Labour responded by accusing the Tories of rigging the formula for allocating central government money to councils, producing rival figures to show that 19 out of 20 councils would not have to charge any council tax if they received the same high level of grant as Tory flagship Westminster city council.

"They'd be able to pay out rebates instead. In Tamworth the rebate would be over pounds 900," said Mr Dobson, referring to the main town in the Staffordshire South-East constituency where a by-election is due on 11 April.

David Rendel, Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, criticised the Government for using band D as the average. Most properties are in bands A to C. "We always knew that council tax rises this year would be well above the rate of inflation." He also said councils had done well to hold rises down below Treasury expectations of an 8 per cent increase.

The Government's figures do not take into account council tax benefit or transitional relief paid to councils to cushion changes in the system.