Headlines: March 4th, 2014

There has been a dramatic drop in the number of local authorities accepting additional government funding in return for freezing council tax.

The offer of additional funding has been taken up by 231 local authorities. This compares with 358 take ups in the previous year. In percentage terms this represents a drop from 85% to 54%

The government is providing up to £550 million in extra Whitehall grants to local authorities that freeze their bills from this April.

Since 2010, the government has worked with local authorities to reduce the cost of living by freezing Council Tax, cutting average bills in England by 10% in real terms.

In a boost to direct democracy, any local authority that chooses to raise Council Tax by 2% or above must put it to a public vote. This threshold is lower than last year striking an appropriate balance between direct democracy and representative democracy ensuring local people have a democratic check over tax hikes through a binding local referendum. Local referendums could be held on the same day as the European elections on 22 May at minimal extra cost or inconvenience.

To further local accountability, from this year, every vote cast by councillors on Council Tax and budgets should be made a matter of public record and allow residents to see where elected representatives have voted with their best interests at heart.