‘Democracy dodgers’ avoid tax poll

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Dozens of English councils are poised to infuriate ministers by raising council tax just short of the threshold that would trigger a referendum.

Almost a third of authorities will again reject the offer of extra central Government funding equivalent to a one per cent rise to help them freeze bills and more than half of those plan to impose a rise of 1.99 per cent, the biggest possible without being forced to seek the approval of voters.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles – whose desire to halve the cap to one per cent was blocked by the Liberal Democrats – has described the town hall leaders as “democracy dodgers”.

The Local Government Chronicle – which received responses from 262 of the 353 councils – found that fears of a tighter limit had influenced behaviour. Some 14 per cent changed their proposals as a result, with half now planning a tax freeze.

Confirmation of the figures will not come until spending plans have been approved by council meetings over the coming weeks.