A survey from CIPFA finds that 41% of councils are planning to increase the Council Tax, thus rejecting the extra funding from central government to reward councils that freeze or cut the Council Tax.
If the survey turns out to be accurate it will be disappointing. Previous estimates have been that perhaps a quarter or a third of councils will increase tax in the coming year. In any event it seems clear that the Council Tax risers will be a minority but a bigger minority than last year or the year before. On the ther hand the number of Council tax cutters is also growing and the overall rise in Council tax bills is likely to be below 1%.
The topic was debated on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning just before 8am. It was a blue on blue battle between Cllr John Gilbey, the Conservative leader of Canterbury City Council which is putting up 1.92% (according to the BBC, actually 1.99% according to the Council agenda) with Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis. (They were interviewed by John Humphrys – who is a resident of Ravenscourt Park Ward in Hammersmith and Fulham and thus will be looking forward to a Council Tax cut of 3% this year.)
Cllr Gilbey was asked about being why he was holding the rise just under 2% to dodge a referendum.
"The referendum is probably a £100,000 to £200,000 cost to us."
I have news for Cllr Gilbey. The referendum requirement offers the following guidance:
Council tax referendums must be held on or before the first Thursday in May unless the Secretary of State specifies another date by order.
Thursday May 2nd will see elections for Kent County Council. That means there will already be fully staffed Polling Stations across Canterbury. So having a Council Tax referendum on the same time wouldn't have cost much more than the printing bill for ballot papers. It is not as if the counting would have been terribly complicated.
There was no difficulty with holding a referendum on a Council Tax rise in Canterbury. Unless, of course, Cllr Gilbey was not entirely confident that residents would have support a tax rise.