Headlines: February 1st, 2012

Less than half the councils across the country have responded to the offer of grants to freeze or reduced council tax. The offer was made in November 2011 and there is just over a month to go before budget decisions are taken.

Some 150 councils have so far indicated that they will take the freeze grant offer. They include Hammersmith and Fulham, South Oxfordshire, Stratford-on-Avon, Tendring and Windsor and Maidenhead which will reduce their council tax.

Council tax bills more than doubled since 1997 until last year’s freeze. This is the second year the Government has offered support to freeze council tax to support local residents, families and pensioners.

The Government has set aside up to £675 million for local authorities in England to help keep council tax down. Last year’s freeze saved households up to an estimated £72 on a Band D bill, and this year’s freeze could potentially do the same.

This new support builds on the offer taken up by all councils last year boosting what they could get over four years to £3.3 billion if they hold council tax for a second year.

The level of concern at the lack of response to the offer is shown by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles who said: “Every councillor still to decide (on the level of council tax) has an obligation to keep the living costs of their residents down and take the freeze money. A vote against a freeze is a vote for a punitive tax-rise when typical bills are already around £120 a month.”