Council tax bills in the UK will rise an average four per cent for the coming year from April. According to the Local Government Association, the average amount each household will pay is around £1400.
Not surprisingly, this announcement has brought howls of protest from many people who feel they already pay enough for their local services. Why should we be paying so much anyway? In my area, my local council is planning to CUT services, and planned to RAISE the average bill by around SEVEN per cent. Our streets are seldom swept and my rubbish is often collected late. It has a poor reputation locally and is at the bottom in service performance… so says the government.
That’s only part of the story. In the UK, may responsibilities that councils once had were handed over to quangoes (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations) and other bodies which are accountable only to the government. These organisations have people appointed to them and get to spend billions of pounds in public money at the LOCAL level. They do not get the sort of public scrutiny that councils do.
There’s also the financial regime that councils are forced to operate under. Since the mid 1980s, budgets for each council in the country has been controlled by the centre. They spending and even and council tax levels are tightly examined on a need-to-spend basis every year. If councils are seen to be either overspending or have a higher level of tax, they’re told to bring them down or face financial sanctions. If they want to get extra money for environmental improvements, they have to bid for funding from the government, which often sets …. and often changes the criteria, often at short notice, so bidders often lose out.
Unless councils are freed from many of these restrictions, there will be more of the same problems when people see their increasing council tax bills fall through their letterboxes every year.