Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Londoners Get Smallest Council Tax Rise for Years; BOROUGHS HEED GOVERNMENT WARNING AND LIMIT INCREASES TO 5% OR LESS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Londoners Get Smallest Council Tax Rise for Years; BOROUGHS HEED GOVERNMENT WARNING AND LIMIT INCREASES TO 5% OR LESS

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSS LYDALL

LONDONERS will get the lowest council tax rise for years after local authorities followed Government orders to limit their bills.

A new survey today reveals the average increase across the capital's 33 boroughs will be 3.7 per cent, excluding the demands from Mayor Ken Livingstone.

He has had a 5.5 per cent rise in his share of the bills approved to pay for five more teams of community police for each borough and more money for the fire brigade.

This means the total increase for a typical London household will be around four per cent from April - down on last year's 5.8 per cent and less than a quarter of the record 18 per cent in 2003.

The survey, by Local Government Chronicle, finds a wide disparity between the boroughs. Harrow - where a grassroots anti-council tax campaign has attracted support - and Hammersmith and Fulham are planning increases of 1.5 per cent.

But several others, including Lewisham, Bromley and Kingston, are proposing rises up to the maximum five per cent. Last month, Ministers warned that demands above this level faced being capped.

They had been concerned about the political implications that soaring demands would have had as they landed on doormats just a month before a likely general election.

In Richmond, which currently sets the highest council tax in the capital, the Conservative-run administration has proposed a 3.2 per cent increase - its lowest for seven years. This would take the benchmark band D bill in the borough from [pounds sterling]1,339 to [pounds sterling]1,388 including the Mayor's precept, which equates to an extra [pounds sterling]14 a year.

Leader Tony Arbour said he would be able to slash [pounds sterling]200 off bills if Richmond had the same level of Government grants as Kingston and Bromley.

He said: "We would have liked to set even lower taxes but government funding will not permit this."

Boroughs have shown their determination to protect essential services-such as care for the elderly, while passing on in full extra cash from the Government for schools. …

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