of the system is urgent, the Local Government Association said today.
The LGA was responding to an Audit Commission's report out today, analysing
weight to the LGA's argument that council tax needs reform.
The commission's review concluded that there are 'fundamental problems with
the way council tax operates', that the system is 'too complex for local
citizens to understand' and that local government minister Nick Raynsford
needs to address 'fundamental flaws in the local tax system' so councils can
'fully engage citizens in key decisions that affect their lives'.
Jeremy Beecham, LGA chair, said: 'The evidence speaks for itself. This
report nails on the head any belief that councils have been frivolous,
careless or politically motivated when taking hard decisions on council tax
and spending on vital services.
'The Audit Commission found no connection between the political control of a
council, and its decision on council tax levels - instead a very clear
connection is drawn between government grant levels, additional pressures
and the level of council tax increases. Neither did the timing of local
elections have any bearing on council tax decision, contrary to popular
'In fact, the report found that councils have been using up their balances
in an effort to keep council tax down. These are the actions of responsible
councils looking to lessen the burden on council tax payers while protecting
services to those most in need. Obviously however, using up dwindling
balances is as equally unsustainable as above-inflation council tax rises.
'The Commission agrees with our belief that the current system is too
complex, lacks proper accountability and is therefore ripe for reform
'The answer lies in the balance of funding review which the L GA is sitting
on with local government minister Nick Raynsford. Our goal is a fairer
local taxation system that gives more responsibility to the local council
for spending decisions.
'We must throw away prejudice and examine all the options with an open mind
- whether that is a reformed property tax, elements of local income tax, a
return of business rates to local control or a combination of these
'I believe we can produce a system of local government funding that
reinvigorates local democracy and further improves the quality of services.'