Relief as government secures council tax freeze

By Ian Dunt

New data suggesting that local councils in England will freeze their council tax this year has been greeted with relief in government.

Incentives of £650 million had been implemented to encourager councils to maintain last year’s council tax levels, as minister became nervous at the political ramifications of voters paying more for reduced services.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) tax survey found the average Band D English council tax bill is expected to be £1,438.87, a marginal reduction of 35p on last year.

“The government and councils have a shared interest in avoiding a public relations disaster of local people paying more for reduced services,” said Steve Freer, chief executive of Cipfa.

“Public attention is likely to continue to focus on the service and job cuts which councils determine in order to balance their budgets.”

Average government allocations to councils have fallen by 9.9%.

Many of the budget savings will come in the form of cuts to back office functions like finance, human resources and informational technology, but cuts of over ten per cent have also been reported for front-line services like libraries and leisure centres.

Local communities secretary Eric Pickles was in a buoyant mood following the publication of the survey.

“The new government has frozen council tax, saving hard-working families and pensioners up to £72 this year,” he said.

“We have scrapped Labour’s council tax revaluation which would have hammered middle England, and we are giving local residents new rights to veto excessive council tax rises in the future.

“This is real help now to assist with the cost of living.”