Tory-run councils will ignore pleas from ministers and impose tax rises
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
Wolverhampton City Council
St Helens MBC
Exeter City Council
Taunton Deane BC
North Yorkshire CC
Tunbridge Wells DC
City of York Council
Leeds City Council
Aylesbury Vale DC
Lancaster City Council
Birmingham City Council
West Dorset DC
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)
West Sussex CC
Sheffield City Council
Mid Sussex DC
South Staffordshire Council
Carlisle City Council (previously proposed 1.99% rise)
Peterborough City Council
Leicestershire CC (previously proposed 1.5% rise)
Tower Hamlets LBC
King’s Lynn & West Norfolk BC
Barking & Dagenham LBC
Kensington & Chelsea RBC: also a £100 rebate for residents
Waltham Forest LBC
East Cambridgeshire DC
North West Leicestershire DC
East Riding of Yorkshire Council
South Lakeland DC
St Edmundsbury BC
South Kesteven DC
New Forest DC
West Berkshire Council
Manchester City Council
Central Bedfordshire Council
Portsmouth City Council
Wirral MBC (previously proposed 1.99% increase)
Sunderland City Council
Cheshire West and Chester Council
Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Staffordshire Moorlands DC
Colchester BC - initially proposed 1.95% rise
Bath & NE Somerset Council
Cheshire East Council
Milton Keynes Council
Telford & Wrekin Council
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
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