With April comes another hike in council tax. The Telegraph reports that bills are set to rise an average of 3.6% outside London - that’s an extra £58 for a Band D property and very close to the maximum 3.9% allowed increase.
Reductions in central government funding means that this year councils have to pay for more of their services from local taxation pools, rather than relying on the central government grant. As council tax can only rise by a maximum of 1.9% without triggering a local referendum Osborne announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement that councils would be able to add an extra 2% on-top of this to fund social care within the local area.
But despite the letter you got through the post from the council leader explaining why they had no choice when making this very difficult decision, it's not so simple.
And rather than cutting councillor’s allowances, pet projects or examining every area of spending councils are instead choosing to increase council tax as much as they possibly can. But if these increases in council tax are due to cuts in central government funding, then why did our research find that between 1996 and 2010 council tax across the country increased by an average of 58% more than inflation?
What happened to that money?
It depends on the council, but we get supporters, journalists and politicians talking to us every-day about vastly different schemes that councils have come up with to waste taxpayers’ money. From photo books and magazines featuring the council, and posted to all residents, to councillor's raising their allowances and being taught how to walk there are many, many examples of wasteful spending that should be looked at before raising taxes is even considered.
And it is possible, even with spending restraint. And if you’re a councillor looking at what can be done to ease the burden on your residents we have some places you might want to start looking. Both Trafford Council and Windsor and Maidenhead have managed it, and in 2013 we came up with 201 ideas for reducing council tax - that’s enough that there should be at least one that you can adopt.