Fresh financial blow for councils in rates 'cap' re-think

Evesham Journal: Local government secretary Eric Pickles Local government secretary Eric Pickles

CASH-strapped councils across Worcestershire are facing a fresh financial headache - with ministers trying to reduce the amount they can hike up the rates.

The news has been lambasted as "like death by a thousand cuts" by a senior politician in Worcester.

Town halls in the county want to increase council tax by nearly two per cent in April, the maximum they can go to without being forced to stage a referendum.

Leaked cabinet papers have revealed local government secretary Eric Pickles wants to cap rises at 1.5 per cent from 2015, calling councils who try and raise it 1.9 per cent "democracy dodgers".

The stance would give councils across Worcestershire another funding problem to tackle if the Government pushes it through.

Worcester City Council and Worcestershire County Council are both about to introduce 1.9 per cent hikes, adding around £23 to the yearly average band D £1,453 bill.

But the end rise for households will approach £30 if West Mercia Police and the fire service, as expected, follow suit.

Councillor Richard Boorn, cabinet member for finance at the city council, said: "He came to power saying he would de-centralise local government, but what's happening is the exact opposite.

"Councils are meant to be the 'tax raising' authorities but he is taking it out of your hands.

"It's bad economics, if he doesn't want local democracy why doesn't he just go ahead and abolish us.

"It's like death by a thousand cuts."

Over the last three years council tax has been frozen in Worcester in return for accepting a cash sweetener from the Government worth the equivalent of a one per cent rise.

But the Labour administration, which grabbed power from the Conservatives last May, says budgets are so stretched it cannot afford another freeze.

That stance is being mirrored at Worcestershire County Council, where the Tories are still in power.

The leaked documents reveal how Mr Pickles wants to reduce the referendum threshold from two per cent, something which party chairman Grant Shapps supports.

In a letter to cabinet colleagues on the economic affairs committee, Mr Shapps said: "This would ensure local authorities think again about raising council tax given that a vote might be regarded as too much trouble."

By 2018 the county council is looking to cut £103 million from spending, while the city council needs to save an estimated £4.1 million by 2019.

Votes on council tax rises from April are taking place next month.

Comments (9)

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7:25pm Fri 24 Jan 14

3thinker says...

About time all of the Councils in Worcestershire were merged into one (or a Maximum of two) Unitary Authorities like most of the rest of Britain.

They'd save a packet on bureaucracy, senior management cost, but also having so many councillors. Its an unnecessary cost that if cut wouldn't make a blind bit of difference.

That way Council Tax increases could be lower and economies of scale could be realised to improve services.

Now which brave local politician or political party out there is going to do the decent thing? It would certainly go down very well with the electorate!
About time all of the Councils in Worcestershire were merged into one (or a Maximum of two) Unitary Authorities like most of the rest of Britain. They'd save a packet on bureaucracy, senior management cost, but also having so many councillors. Its an unnecessary cost that if cut wouldn't make a blind bit of difference. That way Council Tax increases could be lower and economies of scale could be realised to improve services. Now which brave local politician or political party out there is going to do the decent thing? It would certainly go down very well with the electorate! 3thinker

8:42pm Fri 24 Jan 14

skychip says...

Would make such sense to merge Councils but those in authority don't seem to grasp that.
Would make such sense to merge Councils but those in authority don't seem to grasp that. skychip

8:48pm Fri 24 Jan 14

3thinker says...

skychip wrote:
Would make such sense to merge Councils but those in authority don't seem to grasp that.
A lot of councillors are on the District and County. They are often the key players and would actually have as much 'power' under a new Unitary.

I assume there are other reasons for them not wanting to do the decent thing!
[quote][p][bold]skychip[/bold] wrote: Would make such sense to merge Councils but those in authority don't seem to grasp that.[/p][/quote]A lot of councillors are on the District and County. They are often the key players and would actually have as much 'power' under a new Unitary. I assume there are other reasons for them not wanting to do the decent thing! 3thinker

3:50am Sat 25 Jan 14

Jabbadad says...

Yep power and Attendance allowances. MONEY
Yep power and Attendance allowances. MONEY Jabbadad

11:10am Sat 25 Jan 14

Paul Griffiths says...

I'd be astonished to discover that the District councils in Worcestershire currently have the power to abolish themselves, even if they wanted to. But this is not, of course, the first time that the idea of a unitary Worcestershire has been discussed.

How many WN readers remember Alternative Structure (Option 2)? That was how a unitary Worcestershire was described in the Local Government Commission for England's report "Final Recommendations on the Future Local Government of Hereford & Worcester" (December 1994).

Of the three main options considered by the Commission, a survey by MORI found that the current arrangements (i.e. a two-tier Worcestershire, with County and District councils) received the highest public support (although 25% wanted no change at all).

The annual savings and transitional costs given in the Commission's report aren't very useful now, given inflation and the fact the half the work (a unitary Herefordshire) has already been done. But it's worth remembering that that there would be costs to moving to a unitary Worcestershire which could take years to recoup.
I'd be astonished to discover that the District councils in Worcestershire currently have the power to abolish themselves, even if they wanted to. But this is not, of course, the first time that the idea of a unitary Worcestershire has been discussed. How many WN readers remember Alternative Structure (Option 2)? That was how a unitary Worcestershire was described in the Local Government Commission for England's report "Final Recommendations on the Future Local Government of Hereford & Worcester" (December 1994). Of the three main options considered by the Commission, a survey by MORI found that the current arrangements (i.e. a two-tier Worcestershire, with County and District councils) received the highest public support (although 25% wanted no change at all). The annual savings and transitional costs given in the Commission's report aren't very useful now, given inflation and the fact the half the work (a unitary Herefordshire) has already been done. But it's worth remembering that that there would be costs to moving to a unitary Worcestershire which could take years to recoup. Paul Griffiths

11:18am Sat 25 Jan 14

Paul Griffiths says...

Correction: "25% wanted no change at all" should be "21% saw no need to change (from the then two-tier Hereford & Worcester). Anyway, the point I was making is that no one should be too quick to assume that a unitary Worcestershire would necessarily be very popular.
Correction: "25% wanted no change at all" should be "21% saw no need to change (from the then two-tier Hereford & Worcester). Anyway, the point I was making is that no one should be too quick to assume that a unitary Worcestershire would necessarily be very popular. Paul Griffiths

11:14am Sun 26 Jan 14

denon says...

April 20th Napoleon 111 birthday......April 20th Hitler's birthday.....April 20th Eric Pickles birthday.....useless fact
April 20th Napoleon 111 birthday......April 20th Hitler's birthday.....April 20th Eric Pickles birthday.....useless fact denon

8:32am Mon 27 Jan 14

green49 says...

Pickles and his mob in government are devastating this country, people need to get out and vote, cut them out as if they carry on the way they are going we will be even worse off, you cant believe a word they tell you, i know of most of the cuts to care services etc , dont get ill need at home or sheltered care or have to go to a care home, the service will not exsist, its cruel inhumane and all in the name of money.
Pickles and his mob in government are devastating this country, people need to get out and vote, cut them out as if they carry on the way they are going we will be even worse off, you cant believe a word they tell you, i know of most of the cuts to care services etc , dont get ill need at home or sheltered care or have to go to a care home, the service will not exsist, its cruel inhumane and all in the name of money. green49

11:24am Mon 27 Jan 14

denon says...

You can only vote when there is an election
You can only vote when there is an election denon

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