Monday, January 23, 2012

Wait until 2013

Eric Pickles (Conservative Cabinet Minister in charge of Local Government) in a recent speech said:

This year, it will be tough for many people - facing pay freezes at work, be it in the public or private sector, as well as a rising cost of living.
This is why it's essential in February and March, as town hall budgets are set, that councils sign up to the council tax freeze.
It's practical help every councillor can offer to their ward constituents. A vote against the council tax freeze is a vote for punishing tax-rises. Local taxpayers will remember that decision next time they cast their vote at the ballot box.
Councillors have a moral duty to sign up to keep down the cost of living - anything less is a kick in the teeth to hard-working, decent taxpayers.

With the Government offering money for a Council Tax freeze for next year (2012/13), I thought I would take a look at the authorities which make up our council tax bill and whether they are taking the cash. Councils, Police and Fire will have to hold a referendum on whether Council Tax should rise over certain amounts.

The smallest is St Neots Town Council which has put in a zero increase for this year. The Town Council receives no government grant and therefore will get no money to freeze their Council Tax.

The Cambs Fire Authority is looking to not take the grant and is having a public consultation until 25th January 2012 on this subject. The Fire Authority presents the decision not to accept council tax freeze money as thus:

As the Government grant is a one-off payment and will not feature as part of the ongoing base budget, it will mean that come 2013/14, the fire authority will have two options:

1. Increase the council tax by a significant amount, over and above inflationary pressures. This will be to cover 2012/13 and also an increase for 2013/14.
Or, if the Government caps a rise on council tax and only allows a certain percentage increase:
2. Add the deficit to the budget cuts that CFRS already face (£4.2 million to £6 million) which could contribute to the loss of more jobs and more resources, such as retained fire engines.

Capping has gone. Abolished by the Localism Act. What the Fire Authority is missing is it would have to hold a referendum to increase Council Tax substantially. The Fire Authority is not directly elected. Therefore I feel they should ask the people through a referendum on whether they should increase tax.

The Cambs Police are looking to either increase the Council Tax by 2.5% or take the freeze money and let the newly elected Police Commissioner sort this out once elected in November 2012. Though they are having a consultation this has so far come out for taking the freeze money.
Whilst having this Consultation the Police Authority hasn't geared up for taking the Council Tax freeze. As it says in this linked report:

Two options are presented: 2012/13 council tax increase at 3.0% (Table A)and 2012/13 council tax increase at 2.5% (Table B). Both sets of figures have been produced on the assumption that the Authority will reject the Government's offered 2012/13 Council Tax Freeze Grant.

Huntingdonshire District Council is looking to add 2.5% to their portion of the Council Tax bill and is set not to accept the freeze money. No consultation on this at all.

As for the County Council, I have no idea on what their stance on this matter is. This is far the largest part of the Council Tax bill. The 2012/13 budget comes up for discussion on 31st January 2012.

So far two authorities are consulting - Police and Fire. The Town Council has decided to freeze. HDC is looking to increase. Whilst the County Council has yet to come forward with a draft budget. It looks as though the local authorities are looking to increase Council Tax and spurn the freeze money.

Yet there is another way! In 2013 the County Council is due up for election. If any authority wishes to increase Council Tax then they can do so via a referendum. The whole county will be having elections so all can combine to put any Council Tax increases to the voters and therefore gain the approval needed at a shared cost.

Let the people have their say on Council Tax increases.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Double whammy then in 2013

With Some households set to be losing child benefit as well as council tax rises.

looking forward to next year NOT.