LOCAL authorities have been told there is no need for huge tax rises this year - as figures showed bills will rise by almost three times the rate of inflation.

Councils in the North-East and North Yorkshire will increase their charges by an average of just over six per cent from next month.

The figure is well above the Government's own target of 4.5 per cent, with the highest rise a 12.5 per cent leap in Darlington.

This comes despite Government claims of a "best ever" increase in town hall funding.

But Local Government Minister and Durham North West MP Hilary Armstrong said: "There is no need for huge rises this year and indeed, we are providing the framework for them to be very responsible and make sure they are only raising council tax in line with local people's wishes."

Ms Armstrong said councils had to cope with large-scale pay rises for teachers, but should have made contingency plans to enable them to deal with this.

A Darlington Borough Council spokesman said the increase would enable the authority to invest in education and social services and to put away reserves to cope with unforseen spending.

But Darlington Tory councillor Bill Stenson said tax payers were getting a raw deal.

He said: "The rise is nearly double the national average and it is staggering they can get away with this."

Council tax increases have to be submitted to the Government by tomorrow, but an independent survey suggests that bills will go up by an average of 6.4 per cent nationally.

Shadow environment secretary Archie Norman said it was another example of a stealth tax on hard-working families.

He said: "These figures are ahead of the Government's own predictions and almost three times the rate of inflation."

"Under Labour, council tax has become the ultimate stealth tax, piled on to taxpayers without any improvement in services."