Millions of householders will receive council tax bills in excess of £2,000 next week as town halls put up their charges by twice the rate of inflation.
Ministers revealed last night that bills will increase by 3.9 per cent on average, equivalent to £68 on the average Band D bill or £136 on the top Band H bill.
In no fewer than 36 districts across the country, the Band D bill exceed £2,000. Last year, only seven districts charged more than that.
Ministers have revealed council bills will increase by 3.9 per cent much to the fury of critics
The largest increase in the country is in Warwick, where the bill has soared by 6.8 per cent to fund spending on climate change.
However, this huge increase – an extra £126 on a Band D bill taking it to £1,982 – is subject to a local referendum.
Last night campaigners called for council tax rises to be scrapped in the light of the coronavirus crisis which is putting unprecedented strain on family budgets.
Robert Palmer, executive director of Tax Justice UK, said: ‘Now is not the time to be hiking bills given that so many people have seen their incomes collapse.
‘The government should consider suspending the tax entirely for those most in need. In the longer term politicians need to find the guts to fix our broken council tax system alongside a bigger conversation about how we fund vital public services like health and elderly social care. We cannot continue to go on as we have been.’
Much of the large increase in council tax bills is a result of the government’s failure to get a grips with the social care crisis. Instead of funding the necessary improvements out of central government funds, they have pushed the burden onto local councils.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said in December that all councils would be able to put up bills by 2 per cent without holding a local referendum.
On top of this, those with responsibility for social care were given the go ahead to add a further 2 per cent.
The official figures released yesterday show that most councils put up bills by the maximum amount, or very close.
The council tax bills are in the tiny county of Rutland, where Band D households will pay £2,125 a year or £177 a month. Those in Band H homes will pay £4,250.
HIGHEST BAND D COUNCIL TAX BILLS
Newark and Sherwood £2,100
West Devon £2,067
Next are Nottingham and Dorset, both on £2,119; followed by Lewes on £2,111.
Council tax bills are sent out by district authorities, and include precepts for county councils, fire brigades and police forces. Some people in these areas will face even higher bills if they have parish councils in their area.
The huge increase in Warwick is down to the district council’s bid to put up its share of the bill by 34 per cent to tackle climate change.
The council will be the first in the country to hold a referendum which they hope will give them the power to put up their portion of residents’ tax bill by more than 2 per cent.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance called for council tax rises to be frozen in April in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief executive John O’Connell said households should be able to retain as much of their income as possible. He also called for council funds to be freed up for the delivery of frontline health services.
As such, all non-statutory and low-level council spending should be suspended. This could include any planned trip, conference or event, hard copy council tax letters, council newspapers, canteen subsidies and councillor allowances and pensions.
Mr O’Connell said: ‘Emergencies such as this are exactly why we fight for what we do in normal times – so that we can pull together as a nation to see off a crisis.
‘The specifics may be debated, but in general the government is right to take action that in ordinary circumstances would be unacceptable.
‘That means redirecting non-essential elements of government spending such as foreign aid and some council cash towards fighting the virus, as well as allowing more Sunday supermarket opening hours and protecting residents from punishing local authority rate rises.
‘We must start helping the government with constructive ideas like these, to help the country weather this storm and map a course to sound public finances in the coming years.’
Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association’s resources board, said: ‘Faced with ongoing funding pressures, councils continue to be left with little choice but to ask residents to pay more to help them try and protect their local services.
‘A sustainable, long-term funding settlement for councils would mean they can improve services and not just keep them going.’