Council tax is one of those things people tend to forget about, since it's not pulled from our payslips automatically. It's important to keep the local area maintained, so we can't complain too much. We can, however, complain about the fact that council tax is probably going to go up, or at least that's what new research claims.
According to the 2018 State of Local Government Finance research, 95 per cent of councils are set to increase how much council tax people pay, while 93 per cent will be increasing their service fees for things like parking, burials, and planning.
Those increases would come thanks to 80 per cent of councils fearing for their balance sheets, and attempt to make sure they can make ends meet. Most councils are allowed to implement an increase of three per cent, which is in line with inflation, without having to trigger a referendum, though BBC News reports that some of the larger councils will be able to increase tax by 5.99 per cent.
According to the Research, which was carried out by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) think tank and The Municipal Journal, the biggest strain on councils' financial resources are children's services, with 32 per cent of all councils affected. That's followed by adult social care (28 per cent), then housing and homelessness (19 per cent) . Of the 113 councils that responded, many of which were in England, social care was seen as one of the biggest long term challenges.
It's no surprise that this has led to criticism of the way funds are distributed by the central government, with a number of councils calling for "fundamental redesign of the financial system". It also doesn't seem to help that councils have no idea what funding they'll be receiving after 2020, since the government has yet to make any decisions regarding business rates and the Fair Funding Review.
The councils need to keep things going, and while they can impose spending freezes or cuts, money's got to be spent on the important stuff. So the people living in the area have to foot the bill. Unfortunately Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association which speaks on behalf of local councils, has warned that some authorities are "perilously close" to financial collapse, and raising tax rates by a little bit might not be enough.
"Extra council tax raising powers will helpfully give some councils the option to raise some extra income but will not bring in enough to completely ease the financial pressure they face.
This means many councils face having to ask residents to pay more council tax while offering fewer services as a result."
Well nobody wants that.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said its financial settlements will be striking a balance between relieving council pressures and ensuring taxpayers don't end up with any "excessive bills":
"Overall, councils will see a real-term increase in resources over the next two years, more freedom and fairness and with a greater certainty to plan and secure value for money."
He also added that councils has been given more control over business rates they raise to ensure "millions of pounds" could stay within local communities. [BBC News]