Tory-run councils will ignore pleas from ministers and impose tax rises

  • @oliver_wright

Dozens of Conservative councils will defy pleas from ministers and impose council tax rises on their residents in April, research reveals today.

Across England almost a third of councils are planning to increase charges, many to the maximum level allowed without triggering a local referendum, despite a demand from Conservative ministers’ that they cut or freeze bills.

Many of those councils who say they can no longer balance the books without increasing charges are Tory controlled – including local authorities covering the constituencies of David Cameron, William Hague and Michael Gove.

The Local Government Chronicle surveyed 262 of England’s 353 local authorities and found that 31 per cent were planning to reject the Government’s offer of a 1 per cent funding increase in return for freezing council tax bills.

More than half of those councils plan to increase bills by the maximum of 1.99 per cent – just below the threshold that triggers a local referendum on bills. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has called such a tactic “democracy dodging”.

In total, 34 per cent of councils raising bills have a Tory majority; 44 per cent are Labour run and 22 per cent are under no overall control or independent. 

For the average Band D household, a 2 per cent council tax increase would cost £29 per year.

Councillors in Oxfordshire, which covers Mr Cameron’s constituency of Witney, will meet today to approve a 1.99 per cent increase. A rise of 1.99 per cent is also set to be approved tomorrow by North Yorkshire County Council, which includes Richmond, Mr Hague’s constituency. The move, which follows a three-year freeze, is expected to generate an extra £4.6m.

Kent County Council, which is also Tory-run, has just approved a 1.99 per cent increase which will bring in an extra £10m.

The Local Government Association said Whitehall grants to councils were being cut by 40 per cent between 2010 and 2015, at a time when demographic pressure is growing on authorities which have a statutory obligation to provide adult social care.

Sharon Taylor, the chair of the LGA’s finance panel, said: “It should be for councils and their residents to decide how local services are paid for, not Whitehall. The ballot box on local election day allows for people to pass judgement on their councils.”

But Mr Pickles said: “Since 2010, council tax bills have been cut by 10 per cent in real terms across England and people haven’t been facing the threat of soaring bills. I would urge councils to take up the offer of additional funding to help freeze council tax this year to help their residents with the cost of living.”

Increases by councils

Councils proposing an increase of more than 2%, triggering a referendum

Brighton and Hove City Council: 4.75%

Councils proposing a 1.99% increase

North East Lincolnshire Council

Oxfordshire CC

Lancashire CC

Wolverhampton City Council

St Helens MBC

Nottinghamshire CC

Kent CC

Darlington BC

Northamptonshire CC

Cambridgeshire CC

Exeter City Council

Derbyshire CC

Surrey CC

Taunton Deane BC

North Yorkshire CC

Tunbridge Wells DC

City of York Council

Medway Council

Ipswich BC

Dorset CC

Wakefield MDC

Leeds City Council

Aylesbury Vale DC

Lancaster City Council

Halton BC

Devon CC

Birmingham City Council

Warwickshire CC

Richmondshire DC

West Dorset DC

Middlesbrough Council

Councils proposing a different increase

Northumberland CC: 1.98%

Cornwall Council: 1.97%

Bristol City Council: 1.95%

Hull City Council: 1.95%

East Sussex CC: 1.95%

Norwich City Council: 1.95%

Bolton MBC: 1.95%

Worcestershire CC: 1.94%

Stockton-on-Tees BC: 1.9%

Derby City Council: 1.85%

Reading BC: 1.83%

Lincoln City Council: 1.8%

Mid Suffolk DC 1.72%

Bassetlaw DC: 1.5%

Buckinghamshire CC 1.5% (previously proposed 1.99% rise)

Pendle BC: 1.5%

Luton BC: 1.5%

Harlow DC: 1.49%

Councils proposing a freeze

Essex CC (previously proposed 1.49% rise)

Hertfordshire CC

Hampshire CC

Suffolk CC

West Sussex CC

Lincolnshire CC

Sheffield City Council

Calderdale MBC

Gedling BC

Somerset CC

Oldham MBC

Thanet DC

Mid Sussex DC

South Staffordshire Council

Northampton BC

Norfolk CC

Southwark LBC

Waveney DC

Carlisle City Council (previously proposed 1.99% rise)

Bedford BC

Southend BC

Chorley BC

Peterborough City Council

Leicestershire CC (previously proposed 1.5% rise)

Lambeth LBC

Camden LBC

Tower Hamlets LBC

Kingston RBC

Slough BC

Croydon LBC

Stockport MBC

Huntingdonshire DC

King’s Lynn & West Norfolk BC

Barking & Dagenham LBC

Bexley LBC

Brent LBC

Ealing LBC

Enfield LBC

Greenwich LBC

Hackney LBC

Havering LBC

Haringey LBC

Hillingdon LBC

Islington LBC

Kensington & Chelsea RBC: also a £100 rebate for residents

Merton LBC

Newham LBC

Richmond LBC

Sutton LBC

Waltham Forest LBC

East Cambridgeshire DC

Gloucestershire CC

Swindon BC

Somerset CC

North West Leicestershire DC

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Staffordshire CC

Boston BC

South Lakeland DC

Suffolk CC

St Edmundsbury BC

South Kesteven DC

New Forest DC

West Berkshire Council

Kirklees Council

Havant BC

Worthing BC

Newcastle BC

Hyndburn BC

Manchester City Council

Central Bedfordshire Council

Basildon BC

Adur DC

Hambleton DC

Portsmouth City Council

Thurrock Council

Wirral MBC (previously proposed 1.99% increase)

Chesterfield BC

Crawley BC

Chiltern DC

Sunderland City Council

Cheshire West and Chester Council

Tendring DC

Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Staffordshire Moorlands DC

Rother DC

Colchester BC - initially proposed 1.95% rise

Harrow LBC

Westminster LBC

Cumbria CC

Bath & NE Somerset Council

Cheshire East Council

Milton Keynes Council

Wiltshire Council

Rutland CC

Telford & Wrekin Council

Dudley MBC

Sandwell MBC

Councils proposing to cut council tax

South Oxfordshire DC: 2.5% cut

Hammersmith & Fulham LBC: 3% cut

Windsor & Maidenhead RBC: 2% cut

Braintree DC: 1% cut

Hounslow LBC: 0.5% cut

Barnet LBC: 1% cut

Brentwood BC: Proposing a cut, but amount not yet announced

Uttlesford DC: 2% cut

Shepway DC: 0.5% cut

Source: Local Government Chronicle