Council tax ‘vetoes’ on offer

By staff

Members of the public could block council tax increases under proposals unveiled by the coalition government.

A consultation published by the Department for Communities and Local Government today outlines plans to hand capping powers on council tax, currently held by ministers, to local people.

If council tax rises hit a pre-determined ceiling, possibly the rate of inflation, a referendum would be triggered on the issue. The proposals would require legislation which could come into force by 2012.

Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles said: “Hard-working families and pensioners were left feeling powerless and frustrated under the previous government, as council tax bills doubled while their frontline services like weekly bin collections were halved.

“If councils want to increase council tax further, they will have to prove the case to the electorate. Let the people decide.”

The move is a blow for left-leaning local authorities as it will make increasing council tax much more difficult.

Labour avoided attacking the policy from this angle, however. Shadow communities and local government secretary John Denham instead pointed out the government had forced £1 billion of cuts on English councils this year.

“Eric Pickles is already making council tax payers pay over the odds for local services,” he said.

“Labour had already reduced council tax increases to their lowest ever levels and it is years since any council needed to be capped. His referendum is claiming to solve a problem that need not exist.”