In spite of taking the government cash incentive to freeze taxes, nearly a third of English councils are planning to raise the council tax next year, a recent survey suggests.
According to recently published research from the Local Government Chronicle, Conservative county councils are likely considering a tax rise.
Ministers have stated that councillors must make a choice between raising local taxes and helping their residents with the rising cost of living.
However, 75 per cent of county officials who responded to the Local Government Chronicle’s survey said they planned on raising taxes.
154 of 354 councils responded to the survey, of which 53 per cent said they would consider added government funding that would equate to a one per cent raise in council taxes.
12 out of 27 county officials responded to the survey, and nine out of the 12 stated that they would not accept government funding. Only two county officials said they would accept government funding and a tax freeze for a period of two years, and one official was undecided.
David Hodge, Surrey County Council leader and County Councils Network chairman, said English counties were facing a “particularly challenging set of circumstances.”
Hodge argues that the demand for adult social care and other services is rising, there is a “major shortage” of schools, and roads that are costly to repair have “taken a hell of a hammering.”
“Central government has a choice, they can either support councils in meeting growing demand pressures via direct support or by giving councils the flexibility to raise taxes locally,” said Hodge.
He continued, “We are already finding it difficult to ensure our books balance.”
However, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis stated that he would “encourage every council” to accept the funding offer.
“Over the last three years, the government has worked with councils to cut council tax by 10% in real terms. Extra funding is on the table for councils to freeze council tax for another two years,” he continued.
“There is a clear choice for councillors: extra help for hard-working people with the cost of living, or higher state taxation to fund more council administration,” said Lewis.
According to Hilary Benn MP, local government secretary for Labour, “Councils are struggling to fund services such as help for our elderly, libraries, and children’s social care. Hard-pressed families around the country who are struggling to make ends meet can now see just whose side the prime minister is on.”