An analysis of 54 councils across England show that almost eight out of ten of those who are consulting on draft budgets are struggling to keep council tax rises below 3%. This despite authorities already making£1.9bn in efficiency savings - almost double the target set by ministers - and set to make further savings in the coming year.
78% are currently proposing increases between 3% and the 5% capping level.
15% were proposing council tax below 3%.
7% were consulting without so far proposing a level.
28% are considering cutting front line services or jobs to keep council tax rises down.
The research shows that the main reasons are:
- half of social service running councils received a grant increase of 2% or less
- an increasingly number of vulnerable older people needing extra care
- inflation busting increases in private sector contracts and fuel bills
- increasing volumes of waste to collect and be disposed of each year
Final Council Tax bills will be decided upon in February.
Local Government Association chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said:
'Councils have been championing the interests of local residents and are doing everything in their power to keep Council Tax as low as possible. But very real difficulties remain.
'The money given by central government to most councils was better than originally proposed.However, the settlement included no funding for demographic change such as the increasing number of vulnerable elderly people and more people with mental and physical disabilities requiring care.
'Although local government is delivering more efficiency savings than any other part of the public sector this has left very little room for many authorities to manoeuvre between higher council tax and service cuts.
'There is also the increasing demand such as rising volumes of waste and the rising costs of private sector street lighting, road maintenance, bus contracts, and new waste disposal contracts which are rising far higher than headline inflation rates.'
The LGA carried out a snapshot survey of 50 Metropolitan, District and County council draft budgets from across England. The survey showed that out of 50 councils:
42 are currently considering proposed increases above the inflation rate of 2.9%
8 are currently considering proposed increases below inflation 2.9%
4 did not know what they were proposing until later this month
15 reported that they were looking at having to reduce services or cut jobs following the financial settlement.
Figures show that the rising volumes of waste and not enough funding to cover the rising costs of private sector contractors such as new contracts for street lighting which is up 30%, road maintenance which is up 6%, bus contracts which are up 12%, and new waste disposal contracts which are up 20%.