Councils fail to give value for money

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Indy Politics

Bigger discounts should be introduced to help poorer home owners pay their council tax bills, according to a review of local government to be published today.

An interim report by Sir Michael Lyons into the future of local government will also warn that council tax revaluation will leave millions facing higher council tax bills because of increasing house prices.

The report will be unveiled today by David Miliband, the local government minister, as annual council performance tables showed that nearly half were providing only the minimum value for money. The Audit Commission found 41 per cent of unitary and county councils were delivering "adequate" use of resources while 5 per cent were said to be below the minimum score.

James Strachan, chairman of the Audit Commission, said: "It is widely agreed that council services must deliver good value for money and we are concerned that half of all councils are only achieving at or below what we consider to be the minimum acceptable level. Improving value for taxpayers' money is the real challenge for the year ahead."

Pensioners' groups will welcome the Lyons report for recommending higher discounts to allow the property-based council tax to be more closely related to people's ability to pay. Big rises led to protests and some pensioners were jailed. Options being studied by ministers include capping council tax bills for pensioners. Pensioners are being paid £200 in discounts on their bills as a one-off payment this winter. The report says bigger discounts could be offered more widely for those on low incomes who are not pensioners.

How they fared

BEST VALUE

Derbyshire

Kensington & Chelsea

Shropshire

Wandsworth

East Riding of Yorkshire

WORST VALUE

Bristol

Hackney

Kingston-upon-Hull

Sandwell

Isles of Scilly

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