Councils 'planning big tax rises' to pay for services

Residents may see their council tax bill rise Credit: PA

English and Welsh councils are planning huge tax increases as they struggle to make ends meet, research has found.

Some 94% of the council leaders and senior officials questioned said they would be forced to increase charging for services.

Households will face rises of up to 5% - but several councils have ditched plans for higher increases to avoid holding public votes.

Nearly all councils questioned will increase council tax by more than 1.5%, according to the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU).

They also warned they would not have enough funding to fulfil their legal obligations this year and 42% said they expected to impose cuts that would be noticeable to residents.

Despite 94% of those questioned saying they would be forced to increase bills, nine out of 10 said council tax rises were "not a viable way" to tackle the black hole in care funding.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU, said: "Council budgets are stretched beyond measure.

"Increased demand coupled with the management of nearly a decade of cuts from the Government has left local government at breaking point.

"Everyone is expecting someone to fail. They are just hoping it won't be them."

Across the 375 councils in England and Wales, 131 took part in the annual study, which was carried out with local government journal The MJ.

Editor Heather Jameson said: "We are not just talking about accountancy problems, we are facing the collapse of vital services which protect vulnerable children and the elderly."

Tory-controlled Surrey said in January it was planning a dramatic 15% council tax increase to deal with funding cuts and the social care crises.

But it scrapped the move, saying it would instead "take a risk" that ministers will find a solution and was later at the centre of a row over whether the Government had offered it a sweetheart deal.