Are the proposed increases to council tax across nearly all English local authorities justified?
Since 2010, council tax bills have risen less than inflation and other key household bills. But almost all councils found themselves having to raise council tax last year.
Faced with ongoing funding pressures, many will have little choice but to increase bills again this year to try to protect services.
The reality is that many councils are now beyond the point where council tax income can be expected to plug the funding gaps they face.
Even if all councils raised council tax by the maximum allowed over the next two years, they would only raise an extra £540m. With councils in England facing a funding gap that will exceed £5bn by 2020, this is not enough to completely ease the financial pressure they face.
This puts councils in a difficult position. On the one hand, they find themselves asking residents to pay more council tax, but at the same time they are also warning them that they will have to offer fewer services as a result.
Councils claim they are under financial pressure, but they rarely spare a thought for millions of families in Britain who are struggling to pay their own bills.
Council tax in London has gone up by 39 per cent in real terms since 1998. When local politicians want to fund new projects or improve services, their first instinct is to squeeze taxpayers dry.
Instead, councils should look at their own spending and see if there are any clear examples of waste. At the TaxPayers’ Alliance, we find these examples every day. Some councils have done a good job of reducing spending over the last few years, so there is best practice to share, too.
There are 128 council employees in London earning more than £150,000 – that’s a higher salary than the Prime Minister. Sure, you can say that it’s a tough job running a council – but tougher than running the country?
Local authorities should wage a war on waste before forcing families to pay even more in council tax.