Record low rise in council tax bills

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The Independent Online

Council tax bills in England will rise by an average 1.8% in 2010/11, it was announced today.

The increase is the lowest annual rise since the tax was introduced in 1993/94 and brings the bill for an average Band D property to £1,439, up from £1,414 this year.

Local Government Secretary John Denham said the below-inflation hike has been made possible by a 4% increase in central funding for councils from next month.

Mr Denham said: "The lowest ever increase has been made possible by a 45% real increase in Government funding for local services since 1997.

"Our continued commitment will see councils receive an average 4% funding increase in April - helping to protect and improve front-line services.

"Councils will have some tough choices ahead as things become tighter, but that is no reason to lower their sights on delivering service quality people rightly value.

"Local people will rightly be intolerant of any council if they are told that care, libraries or youth services will be cut because they have not followed our radical reforms to protect the frontline services which matter most to people."

The average Band D council tax for 2010/11 will be £1,309 in London, £1,399 in other English cities and £1,484 in shire counties.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government showed that the highest bills for Band D households will be in Rutland (£1,689), Hartlepool (£1,671), Kingston-upon-Thames (£1,663) and Newark & Sherwood (£1,651).

Smallest bills for Band D homes are in the London boroughs of Wandsworth (£687), Westminster (£688) and the City (£950).

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Council tax is Gordon Brown's most painful stealth tax. Under his watch, council tax bills have doubled while frontline services like weekly bin collections have halved.

"You pay more and get less under Labour. This rise compounds the massive hikes of previous years.

"As Scotland benefits from yet another council tax freeze, hard-working families and pensioners in England now face council tax bills of £120 a month.

"Only a Conservative government will work with councils to freeze council tax bills south of the border."

Central grants to local authorities make up the bulk of councils' income, and have risen to £76.2 billion for the coming year. The total take from council tax will be £26.3 billion in 2010/11, up from £25.6 billion this year.

Government has also required councils to find efficiency savings of £3.1 billion over the past two years to protect funds for frontline services.