Tax goes under the spotlight

TAX rises for next year were due to go under the spotlight today. But officials were warning it would take several weeks of calculations before householders would know what their council tax will be next year.

TAX rises for next year were due to go under the spotlight today.

But officials were warning it would take several weeks of calculations before householders would know what their council tax will be next year.

Councils across the country due to get their first indication today of how big their tax rises would be next year as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown announces his government settlement for local authorities.

And most commentators expect him to be generous towards local authorities in the run-up to an expected general election on May 5 next year.


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County council officials in Suffolk were expected to start trying to work out what the figures would mean as soon as they were announced.

But a spokesman warned it would be impossible to give any accurate forecasts so early.

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He said: "Whenever figures like this are released we need to go through them very, very carefully because they are always very complex with money allocated for specific budgets.

"It will take some time for a detailed picture to emerge. The figure will become clear in February, but we should have a good idea about a month earlier."

However the outlook for district and borough councils could be more bleak as there are fears that these councils could be squeezed.

That could be especially problematic for Ipswich council, which has pledged to keep its council tax increase to lower than the rate of inflation next year.

Also today Mr Brown was expected to dismiss claims of a black hole in Treasury finances, insisting that he is meeting all his fiscal rules.

Independent forecasters have warned that he will have to impose tax rises or cut spending on public services after the upcoming General Election in order to fill an estimated £10 billion deficit.

But the Chancellor said last night he would show in his Pre-Budget Report today that the cash was there to pay for all of his spending plans.

Mr Brown is expected to deliver an upbeat statement to the House of Commons, telling MPs there is an opportunity to make the next 10 years "Britain's decade" by building on economic stability and promoting enterprise, science and education.

In stark contrast to the gloomy tone of last week's Queen's Speech - dominated by security legislation on terrorism and crime - Mr Brown is expected to paint a bright picture of the future.

With the election possibly less than six months away, he aims to deliver the "feelgood factor' that will encourage voters to give Labour a third term in office.

What do you think should happen to council tax bills next year? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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