Headlines: March 5th, 2015

New figures show that 231 councils have frozen council tax and they will take up the offer of additional central government funding. This number is just over half of councils.

The government has provided £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.

This is the fifth year of Council Tax freezes and is worth potentially up to £1,100 for an average Band D taxpayer over the lifetime of this Parliament.