Almost all local authorities plan to increase council tax, claims new study

The Local Government Information Unit found that 97 per cent of councils plan to up bills by more than 2.5 per cent this year

Almost all councils in England will raise their council tax this year, according to a new study, after the government’s local authority spending review paved the way for rises.

With the council tax freeze that was in place since 2010 now at an end, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire signed off powers to increase council tax bills by 2.99 per cent without a referendum.

Up to 97 per cent of local authorities will be taking advantage of this, according to the Local Government Information Unit’s (LGiU) State of Local Government Finance Survey.

Around three quarters of those councils will be increasing the amount taxpayers cough up by more than 2.5 per cent, with cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council given special dispensation to raise their council tax bills by 4.99 per cent, asking everyday people to foot the bill for a crisis born from mismanagement and spiralling budgets.

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The survey, which received responses from 123 of the 353 local authorities in England, also found that more than half of councils had dipped into their reserves this year as austerity and drastic cuts in recent years take their toll.

In fact, 80 per cent of councils insisted that current council funding – crucial to keep essential local services like libraries running – is at “unsustainable” levels.

“We know that council funding is broken. Councils are making do by increasing council tax as much as they can, increasing charging and dipping in to their reserves,” said LGiU chief executive Jonathan Carr-West.

Richard Watts, the chairman of the Local Government Association’s resources board, responded to the study by pointing to the £3billion funding gap that councils face currently.

“If we truly value our local services then we have to be prepared to pay for them,” he said. “Fully funding councils is the only way they will be able to keep providing the services which matter to people’s lives.”