Headlines: March 27th, 2009

Average council tax rises across the country will be the lowest ever, according to figures from the Government. The average band D council tax increase will be three per cent and, given that the average household council tax bill is almost 240 pounds lower than the band D figure, the average rise will be just 2.6 per cent.

Council leaders said many authorities had kept their increases down to reduce the impact on households during the recession. The Local Government Association said that given councils’ efforts they would now not expect any authorities to be capped by the Government.

The Local Government Minister, John Healey, said councils had been helped to plan ahead by the first ever three year local government funding settlement but two police authorities were being “designated” for capping action and have twenty-one days to respond. Surrey Police Authority was capped last year and was set a notional budget providing the basis for judging future increases. Based on that, Surrey has set its budget increase to 4.82 per cent and its council tax to 7.07 per cent and could become the first authority to face Government action twice. Derbyshire Police Authority has set its budget increase to 4.99 per cent and its council tax to 8.68 per cent.

In its response to the figures the LGA said councils understood that people were feeling the effects of the recession and had worked flat out to keep council tax down. The chairman, Margaret Eaton, said: “Town halls are working hard to keep local businesses afloat and to help people deal with the impact of the recession. Many councils revised down council tax rises this year to minimise household costs for residents.”