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Householders face 'biggest council tax increase in a decade'

Average council tax bills in England will reach almost £1,600 as authorities impose the highest increases in a decade, according to public finance specialists.

A survey of councils found they were planning an average increase of 4%, which will add £60.94 to Band D bills from April.

The inflation-busting increases mean bills for average Band D houses across England will rise to £1,590.53.

Authorities with responsibility for social care can raise bills by up to 4.99% without triggering a referendum, while smaller councils without those duties can increase bills by up to 1.99%.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) surveyed English councils and found most of the social care authorities were taking advantage of the extra 3% rise available to them in order to make ends meet.

Some 95% will be setting the social care precept rate at at least 2%, while 70% will be increasing tax by the maximum amount of 3% - on top of the up to 1.99% rise available to all authorities.

The 4% average increase covers all council tiers, and includes contributions for police, fire, the Greater London Authority, and those without social care responsibilities.

For English counties, unitaries, metropolitan districts and London boroughs, all of which are entitled to the additional social care precept, the increases are 4.3%, 4.8%, 4.9% and 3.9% respectively.

Sean Nolan, director for local government at Cipfa, said: "The fact that we are facing the single highest council tax increase in a decade is all the more remarkable because it comes after six years of very low increases, actively encouraged by Government who until last year had offered a council tax freeze grant if councils did not raise theirs at all.

"The subsequent removal of this freeze grant shows a clear shift in public policy in general, but also a reflection of the strains being caused by social care pressures. We can expect these levels of increase to continue at least for next year."

Cipfa's survey was sent to all 420 English authorities, with 307 responses - a 73% rate.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "Council tax is expected to be lower in real terms at the end of this parliament than it was in 2010, and we've protected residents by allowing them to veto excessive rises at a local referendum.

"Our historic four year funding settlement gives local authorities the certainty they need to plan ahead, with almost £200 billion available to provide the services that local people most value.

"We've also announced an additional £900 million for social care, meaning councils will have £7.6 billion of dedicated funding to spend over this period."

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