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The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of punishing shire England to save inner London from steep counci...
The Liberal Democrats have accused the government of punishing shire England to save inner London from steep council tax rises.

The average band D bill in England for 1999-2000 will be£798 - a 6.8% rise. According to the DETR, inner London boroughs will see bills increase by 3.3%, while shire districts will see a 7.9% increase. Metropolitan district bills will go up by 5.3%, compared with 8.1% for outer London boroughs.

Hidden within the headline figures are substantial increases in police and fire precepts. The London fire brigade precept goes up by 7.7% and that for the Metropolitan Police by 7.9%.

The precept for metropolitan fire authorities increases by 9.8%, with metropolitan police authorities rising by 5.6%. Shire police authorities have asked for an extra 9.4% in 1999-2000.

Liberal Democrat local government spokesman Paul Burstow said: 'It is quite clear that the government have targeted funds into the areas where they feel vulnerable in the coming elections, leaving outer London and the shire counties in serious trouble.'

Mr Burstow called for an independent inquiry into the allocation of government grant: 'That is the only way people will have confidence that public money is not being used for party political gain.'

Meanwhile, both the Liberal Democrats and Labour turned their fire on the Conservatives, claiming that Tory-run councils had recorded the highest tax increases. Labour said Conservative councils were increasing bills by an average of 7.6%, while the Liberal Democrats put the figure at 8.5%.

Mr Burstow said: 'The myth that the Conservatives are the party of low tax has been blown apart. Their councils are putting up tax by more than anyone else.'

Full details of all council tax figures are available on LGCnet.

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