As I have already noted, this April, Council Taxpayers in England face increases in their bills of up to six per cent – well above inflation – without being able to veto the rise via a referendum. There will be considerable anger about this given the continued scale of wasteful municipal spending and the pressure on household budgets with the sluggish level of wage increases.
But spare a thought for the Welsh. For them seeing Council Tax rise above the inflation rate is nothing new. The notion of a Council Tax freeze – enjoyed by many in Scotland and England quite often in recent years – is not something they are familiar with in Wales. The idea of being able to block excessive hikes with a referendum is deemed an alien English concept.
The Council Tax is still lower in Wales (average Band D level of £1,420) than in England (where the average is £1,591). But the gap has been closing. If some initial indications according to Wales Online are any guide, that trend may well continue this year.
In Flintshire a council spokesman has warned a rise could be “the highest annual rise in council tax in Flintshire for some years”. For this financial year it was 3.1 per cent. Last year, 2016/17 it was 4.0 per cent. The previous year it was 3.7 per cent.
Pembrokeshire sounds even worse. The Welsh Government set an “informal” five per cent limit but Pembrokeshire is “considering” a 12.5 per cent increase.
Blaenau Gwent already has the highest Council Tax in Wales – £1,754 for Band D. It is proposing a further rise “in a range between 2.6 per cent and five per cent.”
I hope that the Conservatives locally will vigorously challenge these proposals.
What a pity that England is falling into line with Wales – rather than the other way around.