Town halls face further cutbacks to services, experts have warned, despite an imminent council-tax hike which has emerged as the steepest in 14 years.
Households in England are to be hit with an average 5.1 per cent rise on band D properties in the new financial year, paying an estimated £81 more. But while the total raised will reach nearly £2bn, the Local Government Association has warned it is not enough.
“Faced with severe funding pressures, many councils feel they are being left with little choice but to ask residents to pay more to help them try and protect their local services,” said chairman Lord Porter. “The extra income this year will help offset some of the financial pressures they face but the reality is that many councils are now beyond the point where council tax income can be expected to plug the growing funding gaps. Councils will have to continue to cut back services or stop some altogether to plug funding gaps.”
It came as Labour attacked the Government over council funding in a Commons’ debate, accusing MPs of “laughing and sneering” at public services in crisis. Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne highlighted the “drastic impact” of cuts in areas such as children’s services, accusing Ministers of devolving blame, while Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy said more than 140 children in her constituency had been taken into care because they didn’t have early intervention. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, conceding these have been challenging times for local government, said many councils have stepped up: “The fact that satisfaction levels among residents have remained broadly steady is testament to this, but I recognise that these hard-won gains have been achieved in a very difficult financial climate.”
And, he added, bills were lower in real terms under the Conservatives: “Council tax in England is 7.6 per cent lower in real terms than it was when we came to government, and we have introduced a legal right for local taxpayers to veto excessive increases. Under the last Labour government council tax doubled and in Labour-run Wales it has trebled.”