Councils 'cheating' over tax rise

The Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has attacked councils in England who are not holding referenda on council tax rises as "dodging democracy" and "cheating taxpayers." Ministers want those rising it above 2% to hold a public vote on it.

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Find out what your council's tax plans are

As councils publish draft budgets for next year, our council tax blog is keeping track of their council tax proposals. It already looks as though there will be more councils refusing the freeze funding and increasing council tax next year.

With several weeks to go until budgets must be finalised, we count 26 councils that have confirmed their intentions to increase tax levels.

We expect this number to increase in coming weeks. If we were betting people, we’d estimate around a third of councils will increase tax levels next year – somewhere around 100 councils.

– Ruth Keeling, LGC Chief Reporter

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Councils look set to defy Government with tax rise

The Local Government Chronicle (LGC) has supplied ITV News with its latest projections for local authorities' approach to council tax in the wake of Eric Pickles' funding attack, supporting predictions that a number look set to defy the Government.

The LGC said budget assumptions and funding proposals allow it to predict the council tax intentions of 74 councils, with the remainder of the 351 English councils still unknown. It said:

  • 26 authorities are considering an increase of between 1.6% and 4.4%, though the majority will raise tax to 1.9%, keeping them narrowly within the Government's planned referendum threshold.
  • Two authorities, Hammersmith & Fulham LBC and South Holland District Council, plan to cut council tax. (Last year saw 35 councils opt for a cut by the decision deadline.)
  • 46 authorities look set to obey Government calls and freeze council tax.

Visit the LGC website for a more detailed breakdown of the latest projected figures.

Mr Pickles, meanwhile, has said the Coalition is aware of 115 councils who have confirmed they will opt to freeze.

PM responds to minister's 'cheating' councils claims

Asked about Eric Pickles' accusation that English councils are "cheating" the taxpayer with planned rises in council tax, David Cameron's official spokesman said:

The Prime Minister's view is that the Government has provided funding to support a freeze in council tax and it is very good news that around one-third of authorities have already indicated that they will do that. Obviously, the final decision is up to the councils themselves.

The PM's view is that it is right to do whatever is possible, within current constraints, for families. That is why the Government has provided funding for another year of a council tax freeze. If councils want to go further, it is right that that (becomes) a matter for their electorate.

Pickles' 'democracy dodging' loop hole claims attacked

Labour MP for Gateshead, Ian Mearns, has criticised Eric Pickles' accusation that English councils who raise a "stealth tax" by 1.99% in a bid to avoid the Government's 2% referendum threshold are "democracy dodgers".

In his article in The Daily Telegraph, Pickles warned "anybody using loop holes will lose out next year".

After his party colleague Jack Dromey condemned Mr Pickles' claims, Mr Mearns added:

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Less than a third of councils sign up to tax freeze

Eric Pickles has said just under a third of English councils have committed to a national council tax freeze.

"Already we know of 115 (out of 351) can do councils who will freeze council tax for a third year from Derby to Dorset, Northampton to Norfolk and Wolverhampton to Worcester," he said.

The Daily Telegraph said the figure compared with 99% in 2011 and 85% last year.

Pickles attacks 'cheating' councils over tax rises

Eric Pickles warned: "Anybody using loopholes will lose out next year." Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

English councils are "cheating their taxpayers" by increasing local taxes in defiance of a national council tax freeze, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has said.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Pickles pledged to introduce new laws to force councils looking to increase council tax above a threshold of 2% to put their proposed rises to a referendum.

He said the councils were currently "treating residents with contempt” by avoiding the Government's calls for restraint in local taxation.

Mr Pickles added that "those who put up their stealth tax by 1.99% in a bid to avoid our 2% referendum threshold need a reality check”.

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