Sunderland chief tight-lipped on council tax rise plans

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson
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COUNCIL bosses are remaining tight-lipped about whether their residents are facing a council tax hike in next year’s budget.

The Government has reduced its offer of so-called freeze funding – an amount councils can claim if they do not increase council tax – from two to one per cent.

The reduction means that already-struggling local authorities need to use more of their already cash-strapped coffers making up the difference.

Sunderland City Council leader Paul Watson said he was unable to say whether council tax in the city would go up or not, because the authority’s budget consultation is now under way.

“A the end of the day, for the last three years, the offer has been a two per cent grant from the Government,” Coun Watson told the Echo.

“We have a track record of, rather than ask people to pay 2.5 or three per cent more in council tax, we have absorbed the difference.

“This clearly does increase the pressure on the finances of the council. This year the offer is one per cent.

“We are in the middle of a budget consultation and I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the outcome.”

A spokeswoman for Durham County Council said the authority is in much in the same position as its Sunderland counterpart.

“We haven’t made a decision yet, and we are consulting on it as part of a wider consultation on budgets,” she added.

A survey by the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) suggests that 32 per cent of all local authorities and 75 per cent of county councils will increase council tax, despite the Government incentive.

The increase, which would come into effect in the next financial year, would boost the coffers of councils struggling with funding cuts and increased demand for services.

The LGC said this figure shows that more local authorities than ever intend to reject the funding, which is equivalent to a one per cent increase in council tax.