Councils ‘must do more to cut costs’

Councils could reduce tax bills by £660 million annually if they took simple cost-cutting steps, a report has claimed.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance’s report, Council Spending Uncovered, reviews spending by local authorities in all corners of the UK and identifies a number of spending areas which could be reduced.

According to the study, in 2006/07, councils in England and Scotland spent over £400 million on publicity. Managers earning over £50,000 cost councils £1.9 billion, while over £4.3 billion on employer pension contributions.

If councils cut publicity, management and pension costs by ten per cent, the report argues, they could cut council tax by an average of 3.5 per cent.

This would result in around a £40 reduction off an average Band D bill, saving each council an average £660 million over a year.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Council tax has doubled in the last decade and is now so high that it tips many families and pensioners over the edge.

“But it doesn’t have to be that way. Local authorities of all parties could make meaningful council tax reductions if they saved a modest ten per cent in these three non-priority areas.”

The organisation’s chairman, Andrew Allum, said he believed local authorities needed to focus on the “real priorities” to achieve the savings.

He suggested the public were often misled by stories about “cash-strapped” councils but said there was much more local authorities could do to “reduce costs, cut council tax and better serve their local residents”.