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First top-tier council tax freeze revealed

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A London borough has become the first upper tier council to announce its intention to freeze council tax and not take up the government’s offer of adding a 3% social care precept on to bills.

Hammersmith & Fulham LBC expects to be one of only a few councils in the country to freeze council tax this year, it said.

LGC’s Council Tax Tracker revealed last week how the majority of top-tier authorities are considering making use of the new 3% social care precept, in addition to adding 1.99% on to regular council tax, despite a widely held view it will do little to alleviate severe funding pressures.

The standard band D council tax charge in Hammersmith & Fulham is set to be fixed at £727, or £1,007 including the Greater London Authority precept, at a meeting on 22 February.

Hammersmith & Fulham, which froze council tax last year and cut it in 2015-16, believes its bills will be the third lowest in the country.

Leader Stephen Cowan (Lab) said the borough had also abolished charges for home care for elderly and disabled people in 2015, and reduced the “majority of council charges in real terms” for services such as meals on wheels. He said this was despite the government “telling us to put council tax up” and “punitively basing its funding of us on the assumption we’ll increase council tax”.

Cllr Cowan added: “We’re taking a hard-nosed approach to council finances which includes ruthlessly changing custom and practices and modernising how the council operates so it delivers more help for more people and improves customer satisfaction.”

In December communities secretary Sajid Javid announced councils would be allowed to raise the social care precept by 6% over the next two years, rather than over three years as announced at last year’s settlement.

Mr Javid said doing so would generate up to £652m extra to spend on social care over the next two years if every council took up the offer.

However, LGC research found six other councils – Kent, Leicestershire, and West Sussex CCs, Brent and Hounslow LBCs, and Doncaster MBC – have already ruled out increasing the care precept above the previous 2% threshold. The three counties and Doncaster have elections in May, while London boroughs hold polls next year.

 

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