Several councils across the country are planning to increase Council Tax, and ignore the Government's offer to freeze it. On Friday Harry wrote about Surrey County Council, and how we at the TPA pointed out some areas where they could reduce their spending before hitting residents with an unwelcome tax hike. Harry also mentioned that he hopes we do this for other 'referendum dodgers'. Well, today I can let Harry and readers know that we will be doing this for other councils too.
It's true that local authorities face challenging cuts to their central government grants, while spending on things like overseas aid will increase and expensive projects like HS2 will go ahead. But it's also true that Council Tax has almost doubled over the last decade and local authorities have been living beyond their means for too long. A click through to the TPA research archive shows that there is plenty of belt tightening still to be done.
In fact, some councils are even planning tax cuts. Hammersmith & Fulham, Windsor & Maidenhead, South Oxfordshire and Tendring all feel they can deliver lower taxes for their residents while prioritising key services. Meanwhile others like Surrey, Tunbridge Wells and Scarborough are looking for residents to take the pain. Peterborough is even planning five years' worth of tax increases.
So as authorities plan their budgets over the next few months, we will be keeping an eye out for those councils ignoring the offer of a freeze and recommending ways for them to cut wasteful spending first. We even have an action day planned in Richmondshire, which is looking at a 3 per cent increase. It's crucial that we keep pointing out to councils that there are still ways for them to cut spending, instead of relying on hard-pressed taxpayers to plug gaps in their finances.