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Council Tax could rise by 3.9%, warns LGA

Council Tax bills could rise by 3.9% in certain areas from April 2007 according to a survey by the Local Government Association.

Research from 132 local authorities, undertaken by the LGA of draft Council Tax budgets, has found that overall the 2007/08 Council Tax rise will be less than the latest Retail Price Index of 4.4%.

However, the survey has also revealed that councils with the responsibility of caring for the elderly are facing intense pressures from the increasing number of elderly people needing care.

Also, the knock-on effects of the NHS deficit crisis has left many councils picking up the costs of care.

Recent figures found that almost seven out of 10 authorities can now only afford to provide care to people with the most substantial and critical needs.

The snapshot survey reinforces the findings of a recent report by the LGA which showed central government funding is not keeping pace with the needs of an ageing population and older peoples increasingly complex needs.

The Council Tax survey found that the average proposed rise for those councils with responsibility for social services and caring for the elderly is set to be 3.9%, while the average proposed district Council Tax rise is set to be 3.1%

Draft budgets are proposed and open to consultation with residents with the final budgets being set in February and March before Council Tax bills go out for the start of the financial year in April.

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the LGA, says: It is a tribute to the determination of councils across the country that they are doing everything they can to deliver an ever better deal for the taxpayer and keep the rises down to a real terms freeze, while doing the best they can to improve services for local residents.

However, for services apart from schools and other specific grant funded government priorities, government funding has increased by just 14% in real terms.

This is in stark contrast to the 90% provided to the NHS.

It is the Council Tax payer that has funded the unprecedented increase in spending, as government grant has not kept pace with the demands on local government, including the ageing population and the costs from new legislation.

She adds: “If the chancellor is not prepared to pay for providing the type of care the vast majority of people expect, then the government must be honest about what it is prepared to fund, the impact this will have on local services and the burden it is choosing to shift onto Council Tax payers.

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