Council tax freeze plan 'flouted', survey suggests

Council tax bill The government has provided funding for local councils to freeze tax demands

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More than 40% of English households face a council tax rise despite the government offering a grant in return for a freeze, a survey suggests.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy figures show of an average increase of £4.39 a year.

The rise is because police and fire authority precepts which form part of the total tax demand are going up.

There is a bigger average increase in Wales of £25 a year, but bills are expected to be the same in Scotland.

Last year, every council in England agreed to freeze council tax in return for a share of hundreds of millions of pounds from central government.

However 15% of English councils, including 8% of "principal" local authorities (county councils, London boroughs and metropolitan and unitary authorities), are increasing council tax.

The institute's Ian Carruthers told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this survey provided the first overview of the situation.

He said this was because it was based on "local decisions taken on the basis of local priorities by councillors in those authorities."

Principal authorities

According to the survey 43% of households will see their annual bills go up, often by a few pounds.

Start Quote

In setting the council tax this year - they will be looking to maintain frontline services”

End Quote Ian Carruthers Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

That is because the requirement of local police and fire authorities - called the precept - is added to the bill.

Of those authorities increasing tax, none are raising it by more than 4%.

Mr Carruthers said: "What the figures are showing is that 85% of authorities have actually accepted the council tax freeze grant - which is a one year grant only.

"That contrasts with last year where the freeze was built into base line funding."

Mr Carruthers said the central government grant under offer was equal to 2.5% of the council's own revenue base.

'Kick in teeth'

He added: "You are seeing more increases amongst police authorities. This is a particular issue they are facing - as during the year they will be replaced by police and crime commissioners.

"In setting the council tax this year - they will be looking to maintain frontline services."

The survey also suggests that across England, the average Band D council tax bill will increased by £4.39 (0.3%), compared with last year's average which was a decrease of 35p.

The largest average increase for a Band D bill is in the North East where it will rise by or £13.43 (0.3%) while London will see a decrease of £4.19 (0.3%).

Last month, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said raising council tax would be a "kick in the teeth" for hard-working households.

He blamed Labour-controlled local authorities for increasing bills despite the money on offer to councils that promised a freeze.

But several Conservative councils also said they would put up council tax to avoid an even bigger increase next year.

A Labour spokesman said: "Eric Pickles' plans actually mean that council tax will increase for low-paid workers next year.

"And this year Tory citadels like Surrey, Peterborough and Chelmsford are already putting up their council tax."

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