Council Tax freeze to save average household £72 a year

At long last the trend of council tax increases has come to an end. Taxpayers will be relieved to learn that they are not facing an increase in council tax for the coming year as councils across England have taken up the Government’s offer to freeze council tax in 2011-12 in return for a financial incentive to offset the costs. This move was announced last October in the Comprehensive Spending Review and it is not surprising to hear few councils have declined this offer. Steve Freer, the Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting, claimed “The Government and councils have a shared interest in avoiding a public relations disaster of local people paying more for reduced services.” But this far more important than a PR exercise, as the Government estimates that the average family in a band D property will be about £72 better off, a much needed boost to already squeezed household budgets. Of course, it must be acknowledged that taxpayers’ money is being used to incentivise councils to freeze tax rises so one could argue that we’ve already paid for it, but it’s a far better use of public money than the numerous stories of waste that we report on this blog every week. Also, legislation has already been passed that means, from next year, all councils who want to increase council tax over a certain threshold will have to hold a local referendum beforehand.  A welcome stipulation as turkeys tend not to vote for Christmas.

But why stop there? If you are fortunate enough to live in Windsor and Maidenhead, Thurrock or Brighton you will be receiving a cut in council tax in the coming financial year. They have achieved this by running services effectively and cutting out waste when times were good. Now times are a little tougher financially they are far better prepared to protect taxpayers’ interests. Other councils are struggling with the adjustment, and complaining about it too, following mass over-spends and living way beyond their means. Huge pay increases for senior staff and the approval of wasteful projects shows a total disregard for taxpayers’ money and finally councils are having to face the consequences of their poor decisions over the last decade, but unfortunately it is not always those at the top of the executive tree who feel these effects. We welcome councils’ move to freeze rates and we hope they show responsibility and humility when making necessary financial savings.

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