Councils warned by Pickles not to use loophole to dodge referendums on hikes
Monday 28 January 2013
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has warned town halls against "cheating" council tax payers by using a loophole to dodge referendums on hikes.
The coalition has been urging local authorities to freeze the levy again this year, insisting a public vote should be held to approve any increase above 2%.
However, only around a third are expected to hold council tax steady amid claims that services are becoming too stretched.
There is speculation that many could impose a 1.99% rise, while others are looking at pushing up the waste and transport elements - which lawyers suggest may not be included in the cap.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Pickles warned that "those who put up their stealth tax by 1.99% in a bid to avoid our 2% referendum threshold need a reality check".
"We will take into consideration anybody cheating their taxpayers," he said. "Anybody using loopholes will lose out next year."
He went on: "What residents really want is cuts to taxes not bin collections; potholes filled not pockets. Councils that put their people first will get the idea.
"To those that don't we're sending out a message loud and clear. The days of the knee-jerk tax and spend hike are over."
Mr Pickles said he was not completely opposed to tax rises - but insisted council should have to win the public over.
"Authorities have a duty to support their residents," he said. "I don't have a problem with councils that want to put up council tax if they have a good reason, to fund local opportunities...
"If the public believes you've got a sensible case they might well listen. But councils should also stop treating residents with contempt."
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