Capping threat renewed

KEEP your council tax rises down!That's today's blunt message from local government minister Nick Raynsford after chancellor Gordon Brown increased grants to county and town halls.

KEEP your council tax rises down!

That's today's blunt message from local government minister Nick Raynsford after chancellor Gordon Brown increased grants to county and town halls.

And he warned he was prepared to cap any council which put up bills beyond a "low single figure" percentage.

As reported in last night's Evening Star, Mr Brown has made an extra £406 million available to local authorities across the country.

That includes £3.5 million to Suffolk County Council which should knock 1.6 percent of council tax bills.

The new money means that the government grant to councils generally across the country is going up by 7.1 pc next year.

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Mr Raynsford said this should mean local authorities can keep council tax rises low next year.

"This is a substantial investment which will further help councils to improve public services without imposing unreasonable demands on their taxpayers.

"And there is scope for councils to improve their efficiency savings.

"Put together, this means local authorities must aim to deliver council tax increases in low single figures next year," he said.

"Unreasonably large council tax increases will neither be justified not acceptable.

"So the government is prepared to use targeted capping powers next year. But we hope that will not be necessary."

His warning was reinforced by his boss, deputy prime minister John Prescott.

He said today: "They (councils) must not doubt my intention to act where I think they have been unfair to their residents," he said.

He added: "If they are really able to convince me their public are really wanting big increases, I am prepared to take this into account . . . any evidence they can give me on the opinion of local people in their area whether to accept it or not.

"If I am convinced, I won't act. But if I am not, I will proceed with capping.''

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