Region's town halls likely to be allowed to increase council tax by two per cent

Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Parliamentary Correspondent

THE region’s town halls will today (Wednesday, February 5) be cleared to push through council tax hikes of up to two per cent, after a fierce Cabinet clash.

Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, had pushed for any authority planning an increase of 1.5 per cent to be required to win a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum.

Such a move – lowering the threshold from two per cent – would have trapped both Durham and North Yorkshire County Councils, under their current proposals.

Tory-run North Yorkshire – which is already cutting £94m from its budgets up to March 2015 - plans a rise of 1.99 per cent, for 2014-15.

And Labour-run Durham also wants to increase bills by the maximum allowed without a referendum, a proposal to be agreed at Cabinet next Wednesday.

Now – in a significant defeat for Mr Pickles – the Government will announce today that the threshold will remain at two per cent.

The Local Government Secretary had vowed to crush “democracy dodgers”, councils raising local tax by just shy of the limit without staging a referendum.

But Nick Clegg has blocked the idea at the last minute, arguing it was too great an infringement on town hall freedoms.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: “Shifting the goal posts in this way could have a devastating effect on council budgets and local services at a time when many councils are feeling the strain.”

The decision will come as a relief to Durham and North Yorkshire councils, which have argued increases are unavoidable to prevent further, damaging spending cuts.

Whitehall’s “offer” of help to freeze bills gives town halls just one per cent of the cost of doing so, when inflation is still significantly higher.

Hilary Benn, Labour’s local government spokesman, attacked the confusion, saying: “The Government's approach to council financing is descending into chaos.

“Councils have to set budgets for the next financial year - but have been operating in the dark as Mr Pickles postures and dithers.”

Yesterday, Mr Pickles sought to tighten the screws on councillors in a different way, ordering that all their votes on budgets must be properly recorded.

At present, many authorities only make the overall outcome publicly available, leaving voters in the dark about the actions of their own councillors, he argued.

Mr Pickles said: “With voting decisions openly recorded and local referendums for excessive increases, council tax bills will no longer dodge local democracy.

“This Government is helping hard-working families manage their cost of living by funding those town halls willing to freeze council tax bills - in stark contrast to Labour, when bills more than doubled.”

Nevertheless, the prospect of council tax rising in more areas is potentially deeply embarrassing for David Cameron, who has repeatedly boasted about a “freeze”.

Comments (7)

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9:35am Wed 5 Feb 14

David Lacey says...

Here we go again. There is no end to the greed of these useless organisations. Root and branch reform of local government is the only answer with £200K "Chief Executives" the first victims of a massive cull.
Here we go again. There is no end to the greed of these useless organisations. Root and branch reform of local government is the only answer with £200K "Chief Executives" the first victims of a massive cull. David Lacey
  • Score: 2

10:23am Wed 5 Feb 14

behonest says...

"And Labour-run Durham also wants to increase bills by the maximum allowed without a referendum"

No surprise there. Labour-run Durham are experts in dodging democracy.
"And Labour-run Durham also wants to increase bills by the maximum allowed without a referendum" No surprise there. Labour-run Durham are experts in dodging democracy. behonest
  • Score: 3

11:09am Wed 5 Feb 14

sineater says...

It's great right wingers talking about greed,that is the only motivation for tories. Is it any wonder there is inaction on behalf of the government in reguards to the areas of the country that are flooded,it's simple there is no profit in spending money on flood defences.I said several weeks ago, David Lacey constantly attacks the c ouncil on their spending,yet when it came to the excessive spending on the free school ,he tamely said we should give it a chance, yes give them a chance to overspend on a school that is not needed,that hardly has any pupils,and is being funded by cash taken from the funding for state schools----hypocrite !!!
It's great right wingers talking about greed,that is the only motivation for tories. Is it any wonder there is inaction on behalf of the government in reguards to the areas of the country that are flooded,it's simple there is no profit in spending money on flood defences.I said several weeks ago, David Lacey constantly attacks the c ouncil on their spending,yet when it came to the excessive spending on the free school ,he tamely said we should give it a chance, yes give them a chance to overspend on a school that is not needed,that hardly has any pupils,and is being funded by cash taken from the funding for state schools----hypocrite !!! sineater
  • Score: 0

4:51pm Wed 5 Feb 14

behonest says...

I think you'll find tackling flooding falls within the remit of the Environment Agency, which is headed up by an ex Labour cabinet minister - Chris Smith. Sorry, Lord (as in Prescott) Chris Smith. Jobs for the boys again, regardless of how useless they are or from which of the main parties they belong to.

Vote UKIP!
I think you'll find tackling flooding falls within the remit of the Environment Agency, which is headed up by an ex Labour cabinet minister - Chris Smith. Sorry, Lord (as in Prescott) Chris Smith. Jobs for the boys again, regardless of how useless they are or from which of the main parties they belong to. Vote UKIP! behonest
  • Score: 0

5:19pm Wed 5 Feb 14

sineater says...

Sorry but I think you will find that the tories and libdems are in power and they are the ones who cut funding to the envirroment agency,which with another U-turn Cameron is restoring some of the funds cut. And I think you will find that Chris Smith is working for this government,he is not some sort of mole sent by the labour party,or he is not a government minister from the previous administration ,who forgot to vacate his office,and carried on working,what weak feeble excuses,ha ha,like everything else,iff their is no money to be made,tories always drag their heels and claim there is no money,or that it is someone elses fault .
Sorry but I think you will find that the tories and libdems are in power and they are the ones who cut funding to the envirroment agency,which with another U-turn Cameron is restoring some of the funds cut. And I think you will find that Chris Smith is working for this government,he is not some sort of mole sent by the labour party,or he is not a government minister from the previous administration ,who forgot to vacate his office,and carried on working,what weak feeble excuses,ha ha,like everything else,iff their is no money to be made,tories always drag their heels and claim there is no money,or that it is someone elses fault . sineater
  • Score: 0

5:51pm Wed 5 Feb 14

behonest says...

No, Chris Smith is Chairman of the Environment Agency. Fact. You're making the same and lame old Labour excuse of 'Tory cuts', instead of asking why this ex Labour minister is not up to the job that the taxpayer is paying him for.

I notice he didn't resign in protest at funding cuts; wouldn't want to lose a cushy well-paid number now, would he?
No, Chris Smith is Chairman of the Environment Agency. Fact. You're making the same and lame old Labour excuse of 'Tory cuts', instead of asking why this ex Labour minister is not up to the job that the taxpayer is paying him for. I notice he didn't resign in protest at funding cuts; wouldn't want to lose a cushy well-paid number now, would he? behonest
  • Score: 0

9:17pm Wed 5 Feb 14

sineater says...

I know he's head of the environment agency,but being a labour politician has nothing to do with it ,he answers to the government they provide it's funding ,they gave him the job. The government cut funding to the agency,and have now had to restore the cash they took away. Everybody in the government connected with this situation,stayed on holiday,when they should have returned to work to sort out the problem.Thats why there was no one to take charge ,and get something done.Chris Smith should have resigned why ? with all the mistakes and u-turns this government is responsible for why don't they resign ?
I know he's head of the environment agency,but being a labour politician has nothing to do with it ,he answers to the government they provide it's funding ,they gave him the job. The government cut funding to the agency,and have now had to restore the cash they took away. Everybody in the government connected with this situation,stayed on holiday,when they should have returned to work to sort out the problem.Thats why there was no one to take charge ,and get something done.Chris Smith should have resigned why ? with all the mistakes and u-turns this government is responsible for why don't they resign ? sineater
  • Score: 0

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