PM attacks Welsh government over council tax freeze snub

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Prime Minister David Cameron has criticised the Welsh government for using money allocated for council tax freezes for other purposes.

Mr Cameron's comments against the Welsh Labour administration came during Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

He was responding to a question from the Welsh Conservative MP Guto Bebb who said council tax in his constituency has risen by more than £120 since 2010.

But the Welsh government said it does not receive money specifically for tax.

Wales' 22 local authorities are currently deciding council tax levels as they consider funding their budgets for next year.

Cardiff council has already proposed its intention to freeze council tax rises, while other councils are considering hikes of up to 5%.

The row follows the UK government's announcement of support in October 2012 for local authorities in England to freeze council tax for a third consecutive year.

The decision resulted in extra funding for the Welsh administration, which is free to choose how it is spent.

In the same month, Wales' local government minister Carl Sargeant unveiled councils' financial allocations for the coming year, which included £50m in additional funding to freeze council tax if authorities wished.

But Mr Sargeant said at the time that he recognised the pressures caused by protecting spending on education and social services.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, David Cameron said "people in Wales know who to blame for not having their council tax frozen".

Mr Cameron added: "It is the Labour assembly government in Wales - they are to blame - they're the ones who are charging hard working people more for their council tax."

Mr Bebb, MP for Aberconwy said: "At a time when people have to tighten their belts and when some people are struggling to pay for essentials... it is appalling that the Welsh Labour government are choosing to use taxpayers money to fund projects that are in their own electoral interests rather than in the interests of the people of Wales."

However, in a statement, the Welsh government said it had not been given "a single penny" towards paying for a council tax freeze.

"All consequential money we receive in Wales, comes not as a UK government handout - it's money which rightly comes back to the Welsh taxpayer, as a consequence of spending decisions made in England," it added.

"We decided to use the money we are entitled to, to support the Welsh economy and keep people in jobs, during these difficult times.

"Whilst the Tory-led UK government have sat on their hands for the last three years, we have been taking action to save jobs and people's livelihoods. We make no apology for that.

"The fact is, Welsh council tax payers pay on average a much lower amount than in England."

The statement added that councils are free to freeze council tax if they choose to.

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