TORIES have urged council bosses to make a pledge not to raise council tax – warning that a costly referendum could follow.
As previously reported in the Echo, Sunderland City Council will not say whether or not an increase is on the cards as the budget consultation is ongoing.
Conservative opposition Robert Oliver is now warning that should an increase be seen as excessive in relation to limits set by the Government, it will have to stage a referendum.
The warning comes as figures from the Local Government Chronicle claim that a third of councils plan to reject an offer of one per cent in Government funding to freeze council tax.
Coun Oliver said: “Many councils have been able to protect the frontline and still deliver freezes in council tax by making sensible savings, using reserves and tackling arrears and waste.
“Sunderland Council still has £8.5million in council tax arrears which many will feel should be collected before any tax rise on people who have already paid their fair share.
“Councils are being offered the equivalent of a one per cent increase in council tax to freeze bills and we want to see the council accept it for a fourth year running.
“Despite the financial restrictions, residents are saying that services have improved in the city which proves the point that councils can give more for less.
“Much more could be done to share services among neighbouring councils to reduce costs further and make a tax rise unnecessary.
“The council could also risk having an expensive referendum if any increase in council tax came in at above two per cent, the trigger for such a vote.”
Powers under the The Localism Act 2011, which came into force this year, mean that any council that wishes to raise its council tax above the limits set by the Secretary of State for communities and local government, will have to hold a referendum, the result of which will be binding.