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Tories split over tax freeze plan

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Shadow chancellor George Osborne’s plan to encourage local authorities to freeze council tax levels has split opinion among Tory administrations.

Amid general enthusiasm at this week’s Conservative conference about the populist proposals, some Tory councils disputed Mr Osborne’s claim to have consulted local government. Others warned the commitment could lead to cuts in front-line services.

Under the plan, any council that keeps its council tax increase to 2.5% or less will receive additional money to reduce bills by a further 2.5%.

A Tory county council leader said of the proposals: “There wasn’t as much consultation as we would have liked.”

“The work was done by one of the London boroughs and there is certainly a feeling that it will be easier for them to take advantage of this offer than it is for others.”

He added: “Most councils in the south-east won’t be able to get down to 2.5%.”

Ken Meeson (Con), Solihull MBC leader, said the proposals would penalise councils on the grant floor unless they went hand in hand with reform of the grant distribution system.

“Because of our low grant settlement we are already looking at 15% spending cuts over the next three years in order to keep council tax rises below 5%, never mind 2.5%,” he said.

LGC understands Margaret Eaton (Con), the new chairman of the LGA, was only informed of the plans which were originally due to be announced on Sunday late in the weekend.

David Shakespeare, leader of the LGA Conservative group, welcomed the plans. “There is no financial straitjacket and no cuts in services proposed. Councils will still set their own level of council tax. This is localism, councils deciding themselves what route to take.”

See also

Sunday with the Tories

Frozen smiles on tax

Mr Pickles is the Prince

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