Council taxes 'set to rocket'

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Indy Politics
Council tax rises could be much higher than the 8 per cent predicted by the Treasury, as a result of cuts in support for spending by local government, Labour warned last night.

Frank Dobson, the party's environment spokesman, blamed the Government for forcing many Labour- controlled local authorities to increase the council tax from April by more than three times the rate of inflation, as a result of cuts in support grants.

"Labour authorities will have to do their best to keep the council tax down and maintain services as best they can. But it will mean people have to pay more for less," he said.

William Waldegrave, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, had estimated at the time of the Budget that the council tax could go up by 8 per cent, but Mr Dobson warned it could be higher. "It could be more. It is an average, and last time, the actual figures varied between an increase of 24 per cent to a substantial reduction," he said.

Labour will seek to blame the Government for the increases in council tax in a full-scale Commons debate tomorrow. Mr Dobson said it was the equivalent of an increase of a half-penny in the pound on the basic rate of income tax. "It will nearly wipe out the 1p cut in income tax given to the taxpayers in the Chancellor's Budget. What they give with one hand, they steal back with the other," he said.

The increases in council tax bills are due to drop through people's letter boxes in April, shortly before the local elections in May. Ministers are hoping to pin the blame on Labour-controlled local councils, and will claim it represents an example of the higher spending and higher taxation voters can expect under Labour.

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