Extreme budget cuts could see millions face a rise in their council tax. One in five local authorities are likely to increase council tax in 2013 despite the Government’s call for its freeze.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has unveiled another year of deep budget cuts but at the same time has warned local authorities they have a “moral duty” not to raise council tax. On average local authority funding will be reduced by 1.7 per cent, but some are facing cuts of up to 8 per cent. Mr Pickles urged councils to cut waste rather than making local people pay more.
Despite the Communities secretary’s plea and the offer of grants to help keep the budgets frozen, a survey by the Local Government Chronicle shows that 22.4 per cent of local authorities are now planning to increase council tax.
Sir Merrick Cockell, chairman of the Local Government Association, argued that some councils may have no choice but to raise taxes in order to fund the expensive services they provide. Cockell also questioned Mr Pickles’s claim that local authorities have a “moral duty” to keep it down. “I’m sure they will want to keep council tax frozen or at the very lowest increases possible,” he said. “But we also have enormous responsibilities to some of the most vulnerable people – we don’t just sort of sweep the streets and do universal services; we actually provide care for the oldest people in the final years of their lives, we provide care for children with great vulnerabilities”
In agreement with Sir Cockell’s stance, Nine Labour city councils in charge of cities in the north of England also warned Mr Pickles in an open letter that they would have “no money for anything but social care and refuse collection” within the next decade, if the cuts continue.
Mr Pickles, however, is adamant that councils have enough money claiming that many are sitting on millions of pounds in reserves. He told MPs: “Councils must do three things to get on the right road for their residents: put our fair funding deal to work; do every single one of our 50 ways to save; and accept our council tax freeze offer. Councils that cry wolf without having done all of this are letting their residents down.”