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Labour-run Chesterfield Borough Council is proposing a Council Tax rise of 3.5% but is first holding a consultation to test if residents agree.

Their leader Cllr John Burrows says:

"This year's offer of funding to Councils that agree to freeze Council tax in 2012/13 is a one-off grant for one year only.

"If we accept the Government's grant, equivalent to a 2.5% Council tax increase, we will be left with a shortfall of funding in every year after 2012/13.  For Chesterfield, this equates to £458k over three years, rising to £914k over five years, when the benefit of the Government’s first Council tax free grant ends in 2014/15.

"This will mean having to make cuts to frontline services, which could well involve job losses, or needing to apply higher Council tax increases in future years.

"We haven't as yet made a final decision. We will do this on the first of March, when any opinions expressed by Chesterfield's Council taxpayers will be fully considered."

"Anyone wishing to put forward their opinions on the proposed 3.5% Council Tax increase should do so in writing to Mr Barry Dawson, Head of Finance at Chesterfield Borough Council, Town Hall, Rose Hill, Chesterfield S40 1LP or by email to barry.dawson@chesterfield.gov.uk

Of course the terms in which the choice is presented are rigged. Spending cuts do not necessarily "mean having to make cuts to frontline services." But this is not unusual. I got an email this week informing me that "RFT Ltd did the market research for Cambridgeshire County Council which probably helped them to consider increasing council tax to preserve key services." The YouGov tool for budget consultations insists on the most mechanistic link between spending cuts and service cuts of any amount in any budget area. Not true – whatever the computer might say when completing the YouGov survey.

So the residents of Chesterfield are having a loaded consultation. But at least they are having one. The council could ignore the results but I think they would probably have to publish them. If a large number of residents respond with a big majority demanding a Council Tax freeze this would give the council pause for thought.

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