Headlines: August 30th, 2002

The promise to councils that Whitehall will release its grip on the work of local government is starting to be delivered with the ending of detailed prescription for councils tax bills. The aim is to make council tax notices clearer and more understandable. The move will mean that councils will no longer be required to send taxpayers complicated financial information or include explanatory notes on the bill. Instead they will have to give information on the their expenditure plans, how these are to be funded, their impact on council tax payers and reasons why the level of council tax has varied from the previous year.Councils will also be given the freedom to serve bills and reminders electronically for the first time. This change will need amending legislation to make clear that bills are deemed to be served where a council has issued a demand notice by email. Taxpayers will also be able to pay their tax bills electronically.

Other freedoms likely to be given to councils include greater discretion on discounts and exemptions, and the publication of guidance about consulting local people about tax and spend decision