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Early birds set out stall on freeze funding

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Defiant councils have moved early to announce plans for council tax increases next year despite a government offer of funding for authorities freezing the charge.

Labour run City of York Council and Thanet DC, where no political group has overall control, have both said they are considering a 2% rise in 2013-14 – the highest increase allowed without a triggering a referendum.

Thanet DC’s cabinet member for finance Rick Everitt (Lab) blamed additional funding cuts of 10%, equivalent to £580,000, in 2013-14 which he said were set out in illustrative figures published by the Department for Communities & Local Government.

“Further cuts to the council purse are really unwelcome news for Thanet. Having already suffered a reduction of 28% in government funding over the past two years, resources are stretched to the absolute limit.

“We want to shield residents as far as possible. However, this additional reduction of over half a million pounds has forced us into a corner, and while we will draw upon other funding streams where possible, we’ve been left with very little option but to consider a slight increase in council tax as well.”

Cllr Everitt said accepting the government’s freeze funding offer, equivalent to a 1% increase, “would still leave us with a significant hole in our budget next year”.

York leader James Alexander (Lab) said the council had budgeted for a 2% increase. “The government says it believes in localism but is trying to twist the arm of local authorities,” he added.

A number of authorities intending to accept the government’s funding and freeze council tax have also thrown their hats into the ring early, including Lambeth LBC and Haringey LBCs as well as Hertfordshire and Staffordshire CCs.

Last year, when councils who froze council tax received one year of funding equivalent to a 2.5% increase, a tenth of councils declined the offer and instead increased council tax.

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