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Report looks to 3.5% increase in Westminster council tax

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Westminster City Council’s finance director has recommended a minimum 3.5% increase in council tax next year in a move that could stoke tensions between members and officers at the flagship Tory authority.

Westminster’s cabinet, which has frozen council tax for the past four years, was urged to push for the maximum increase without being capped to compensate for “spending reductions, rising demand and falling commercial income”.

A report by strategic director (finance and performance) Barbara Moorhouse said taking the government grant for freezing this financial year was prudent but next year would be different.

“The Section 151 officer considers that the council should plan for an increase in council tax in 2012-13 by a minimum of 3.5%,” said the report, discussed at February’s cabinet meeting. Last year, officers recommended a council tax freeze.

Westminster cabinet member for finance Melvyn Caplan (Con), left, said the council was proud of its record on freezing council tax.

He said: “While an officer’s report has recommended that we should plan to increase council tax by a minimum 3.5% in 2012-13, no decision has been taken and we will review the council’s finances at that time.”

The news follows communities secretary Eric Pickles last month announcing that every English council was taking up the government’s offer to fund a council tax freeze.

This is the first time that 100% of local authorities have reduced or frozen council tax since its introduction in 1993-94.

Some 378 authorities are opting for a freeze while 43 will reduce their tax.

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