Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

DO You Think Your Council Tax [...]

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

DO You Think Your Council Tax [...]

Article excerpt

Byline: COLUMNIST RON BEADLE

DO you think your council tax should go up? DYou might have to answer this question over the next few weeks if your local council believes it needs to raise council tax by more than 2%. But I suspect that it won't do this because it fears what you would say.

In 2010 the Coalition agreed that council tax should be kept down unless local people agree to a rise. So councils now receive the equivalent of a 1% rise in council tax from government in return for freezing council tax and most have opted to take this additional money. These include Gateshead where the council receives around PS800,000 from government in this way.

However if councils choose to raise council tax they don't get a penny of this addition. Should they raise council tax by 1%-2% they would be robbing Peter (that's you) to pay Paul (that's the government). And if they want to raise council tax by 2% or more they need to have a local referendum to authorise it. That's where you would get to say whether you wanted your council tax to go up to fund local services.

Over the next few weeks you will hear much about the cuts because this is the time of year when councils agree their budgets. Before last year's annual budget meeting many of Gateshead's Labour councillors posed for photograph with trade union activists and other campaigners outside the Civic Centre. They were protesting against the very budget that they then went in and voted for. But this level of hypocrisy is only the start.

Over the next few weeks you can expect to hear Labour council leaders bemoaning the unfairness of government cuts and here in the North East councils have suffered more than most, although not all, regions. The reason of course is that councils in poorer areas like ours receive far more per head from government so when cuts are imposed we are hit hardest. Indeed government as a whole spends more per person in the North East than in other parts of England; which is why we feel the cuts more keenly.

Back in 2010 public expenditure as a whole was PS10,126 per head in the North East, the highest of any English region outside London; by contrast people in the South East had PS7,970 per head spent on them; some 21% less per person. …

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