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Council Tax Set To Rise In England And Wales Despite Government Support

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Councils are in revolt over government attempts to force them to freeze council tax, a survey shows.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has offered local authorities cash in return for holding rates the same to help out struggling households.

eric pickles

Eric Pickles has promised to deliver council tax freezes

But cash-strapped town halls have dismissed the one per cent grant as a "bribe" - and more than 40 per cent are expected to shun the offer, leading to increases in April for much of the country.

Last year, around 85 per cent took up the offer - but the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) said this was set to plunge this time around.

It found 41% - including many Tory-controlled authorities - intended to forego the grant and push up the tax for 2013/14.

This is expected to lead to an average expected rise across England of 0.8%, almost three times last year's average.

In an attempt to ramp up the pressure, Pickles has said any council wanting to increase bills by 2 % or more has to hold a referendum.

But many are planning on smaller increases, which means there is no need for a vote.

There are significant regional variations with an average 1.2% rise due across Yorkshire and Humber - adding £16.30 to a Band D property bill - while in Greater London, where bills went down on average last year, it is just 0.1%.

Town halls fear that unless they impose modest rises this year, they will be forced into more dramatic hikes in future when there is no Whitehall cash to soften the blow.

Cipfa's director of policy Ian Carruthers said the squeezed budgets meant councils had to "strike an increasingly difficult balance" between tax rises and service cuts.

"Councillors must take council tax decisions based on local priorities," he said.

"As the pressures from this period of unprecedented austerity intensify, all councils are having to strike an increasingly difficult balance between protecting hard-pressed taxpayers and maintaining local services.

Mr Pickles said: "Council tax more than doubled under Labour.

"But this Government has worked to freeze council tax for three years, helping hard-working families and pensioners with
their cost of living.

"This survey confirms that council tax will effectively be frozen again this year, with an average change across England of just a mere 0.8%. This is a tax cut in real terms."

A Local Government Association spokesman said: "This has been a tricky decision for councils.

"Collectively local authorities are facing a 33% cut in funding from government at the same time as the cost of providing services like adult social care is climbing through the roof."