Residents get council tax hike veto
The public will be given the power to veto excessive council tax rises, the Government has said
Under plans announced by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, local people will have the right to decide whether to allow increases above a set ceiling, by holding referendums.
Any council that set its increase above the ceiling, approved by Parliament each year, would trigger an automatic referendum of all registered electors in its area.
Residents would be asked to choose between the proposed rise and a "shadow budget", which the council must also prepare within the defined limit. A no vote would leave councils having to refund taxpayers or give a credit at the end of the tax year.
Council tax bills across England have doubled since 1997, pushing the average bill to £120 a month on a Band D home, the Department for Communities and Local Government said.
The unaccountable police authority levy imposed on council tax has trebled since 1997, it added. The new system would replace capping by Whitehall.
Mr Pickles said: "Hard-working families and pensioners were left feeling powerless and frustrated under the previous government, as council tax bills doubled while their frontline services like weekly bin collections were halved.
"If councils want to increase council tax further, they will have to prove the case to the electorate. Let the people decide."
The previous government stepped in to take capping action against 36 authorities which set excessive rises, the department said. Some of the highest rises were South Cambridgeshire, which tried to set a 100% increase in 2005/06, and Lincolnshire Police Authority, a 79% increase in 2008/09.
Council tax bills hit £1,439 on Band D in England in 2010/11. By contrast, it was £688 in 1997/98. This means council tax in this period has risen 109% - or an extra £751 a year on a Band D home.