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Wandsworth among 100-plus council tax risers

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More than 100 councils have are planning to increase council tax including Wandsworth LBC, which is imposing only its second increase in a decade, according to LGC research.

Analysis of council tax proposals being considered and agreed on by authorities in England show that at least 102 authorities will increase the charge.

Last year just 35 councils - a tenth of the total - increased council tax.

Of the 102 planning an increase, 49 are Conservative including Wandsworth LBC which has announced a 3.1% rise.

Although the secretary of state for communities and local government has told authorities they must hold a referendum if they increase the council tax by more than 2%, Wandsworth will not have to do so because its increase is caused by levies from a number of other bodies including waste and park authorities.

Leader Ravi Govindia (Con) said the borough’s own portion of the council tax would see no increase. “Once again we have been able to freeze our share of bills but we cannot absorb costs that are beyond our control and are levied by other statutory organisations,” he said.

Manchester City Council and a number of other authorities experienced a similar issue with increasing levies pushing them beyond 2% and were accused of exploiting “loopholes” in the rules set by the Department for Communities & Local Government.

Although the department last year resisted calls to include levies in the council tax referendum, communities secretary Eric Pickles announced last month that levy increases would in future years be subject to the referendum test.

He also warned councils using the loophole such as Manchester City Council, Rochdale MBC and now Wandsworth LBC that they could find themselves singled out for specially restrictive referendum levels next year.

“Authorities should have no doubt that we will consider setting principles in future years which are specific to authorities that increase their basic amount of council tax in 2013-14 by more than 2% without having sought the approval of the local electorate in a referendum,” he said.

LGC has gathered data for 301 of 354 English councils ahead of the 11 March deadline for council tax setting.

Of the 301 councils with known plans, 102 are planning increases, 11 are planning to cut the tax and 187 intend to freeze the charge.

The Department for Communities & Local Government published a list on Friday of 219 bodies freezing council tax, including fire and police authorities as well as councils.

Those cutting and freezing council tax will be eligible for the government’s offer of freeze funding which is equivilant to a 1% increase next year and the year after.

However, many councils have rejected the funding incentive to freeze arguing they will be financially worse off once the funding runs out in 2015-16.

For information about what 300 councils are planning in their budgets visit LGC’s blog

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