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Number of councils refusing funding to freeze council tax rises

More than a third of councils have refused funding from the government to freeze council tax over the next year.

The Department for Communities and Local Government today announced that 64% of authorities had taken the government’s freeze grant, which is based on the equivalent of a 1% increase in rates.

Offers of funding to freeze rates have been made from Whitehall to town halls since 2011-12. Last year 235 of 353 councils took the funding, while this year the number dropped to 228.

Communities secretary Eric Pickles said that in real-terms council tax bills have fallen by 11% in the past five years.

He added: “In the last decade the cost of council tax went through the roof but this government has been working to keep bills down to give hardworking people and pensioners greater financial security.

“We have given extra government funding to those town halls that did the right thing and froze council tax for households, which has cut bills by 11% in real-terms, meaning people have more money in their pocket and are no longer facing the threat of soaring bills.”

In February the minority Green administration of Brighton and Hove City Council proposed a budget that included a council tax hike of 5.9%, which would have seen the area hold England’s first referendum on increasing council tax. However, in March it was announced that council tax in the area would only rise by 1.99% after the Green Party plan failed.

Any rise above 1.99% has required a local referendum since 2012-13.

Responding to the council tax figures, the Local Government Association said councils had worked hard to keep bills down, but it was increasingly difficult to protect services with all the cuts in funding.

A spokesman added: “Before long, the vast majority of council tax will be spent on social care, leaving little money for fixing the roads, running local youth centres or keeping the streetlights on.

“If these popular everyday services are to survive the next few years, the next government must protect local government funding and give councils more financial freedom. It should no longer be the place of Whitehall to interfere in discussions between councils and their residents about how local services are paid for.”

(Image source: Joe Giddens)

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