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Local authorities 'plan to raise council tax'

Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax and many will be cutting services, research from the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) suggests, with three-quarters of local authorities set to increase tax by more than 2.5% from April.

Almost a third of councils said they were planning to cut spending on adult social care, and a quarter may reduce children's care. 29% of those who answered the survey said they intended to "reduce activity" in adult social care in 2019-20.Some 97% of local authorities were planning to raise council tax in 2019-20, but more than half (53%) still expect to have to dip into their reserves to cover costs.

One in 20 councils said they were concerned that funding cuts were now so deep that they would struggle to deliver the legal minimum level of services. Almost one in 10 anticipate legal challenges from the public against proposed cuts in service provision.

  • Northamptonshire County Council, which is in financial difficulty, has been given permission by the government to put its tax up by 5%
  • Gloucestershire County Council will raise council tax by 4.99%, equivalent to £5.13 a month more for a Band D household
  • Oldham Council is increasing bills 3.99%, adding £62 to the yearly Band D bill
  • Cornwall Council's cabinet has recommended an increase of 3.99% in April, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service
  • Oxford City Council is increasing council tax by 2.99%, about £8.94 on a Band D bill, which on top of Oxfordshire County Council's bill makes a total of £1,776.63

The Public Accounts Committee says the Government is in denial over the state of council finances: “Over the last eight years, the Government has cut the funding it gives to English local authorities by nearly half, while, at the same time, demand for critical council services has risen: housing is under strain with over a third more people homeless, and adults’ and children’s social care are confronted with growing demand. The rate of looked-after children, for example, is at a 25-year high. The cost of adult and children’s social care has forced many local authorities to reduce spending on services in other areas.”

Read Public Accounts Committee - Local Government Spending

In 2013, support for low-income households to pay their council tax was localised across England and funding for it was cut, while it was mandated that pensioners be protected. Hence for the first time since the poll tax, some of the lowest-income households have been required to pay local tax.

90% of English councils have now cut council tax support for those of working age below the levels provided to pensioners. As a result, an extra 1.3 million working-age households are sent a council tax bill and another 1.2 million are billed for more than they would have been. Many households have fallen behind with their council tax bills as a result, meaning that councils have failed to collect one-quarter of the extra tax that they have asked for.

Read Institute for Fiscal Studies - Cuts to support mean 1.3 million more low-income households get a council tax bill, but a quarter of the extra tax due is not paid