Rise in council tax as cuts in funding hit city

BRADFORD Council’s Labour administration is set to recommend a two per cent rise in the city’s council tax as it looks to deal with a £20m gap in the authority’s finances.

Council leader David Green blamed Government funding cuts for the move which, if agreed by the council. would see the bill for a band D property before fire and police precepts rise from £1,094 to £1,116.

The Government is trying to persuade councils to freeze the council tax with the offer of a grant equal to a one per cent rise. But Bradford Council figures suggest a 2 per cent rise in council tax will generate more than £1m extra for the authority compared with accepting the grant.

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Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles has told councils they must hold a referendum if they try and raise council taxes by more than two per cent.

Coun Green said: “Certainly the feeling is that we can’t afford to take the freeze and that we will need to put money into the [council tax] base for future years.

“The freeze is, on the face of it, attractive but it doesn’t deal with the long-term financial challenges we face.

“What the Government is doing through the freeze is actually putting short-term political fun and games above the long-term sustainability of vital local public services and we are getting into a position where the challenges we face in local governmment are so serious we need to look to our own local revenue to deal with cuts by central government.”

The main grant to the council from Government, added to the share of business rates it will be allowed to keep, is being cut for the year ahead by more than £10m.

Bradford Council expects a further reduction of more than £25m in the following year.

A council tax rise from April would be the first by the authority in three years.

The Labour administration will not agree the detail of its budget proposals until later this month but the authority has previously put suggested how savings can be made and income increased.

Ideas on the table include the abolition of council tax discounts on second homes and to cut more than 100 jobs on top of the 1,400 already lost over the last two years.

The administration has also indicated it is ready to spend more than £9m of council reserves on measures designed to help grow the city’s economy.