Phillip Lee MP: Boroughs' council tax freezes benefit allBy Victoria Smith
February 22, 2012
The council tax more than doubled under the previous Government, placing an extra strain on hard-working families and pensioners.
Therefore, I was pleased to be informed that Wokingham Council and Bracknell Forest Council accepted the government’s proposal and is freezing council tax in 2012/13.
People living in council tax band D homes in Wokingham will save over £70, thanks to the council tax freeze.
Average band D council tax in Wokingham for 2012 is £1,435 and for Bracknell Forest it is £1,329.
The announcement means that residents, general taxpayers and recipients of the council’s services all benefit.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has shown it wants to help reduce the burden of ever-escalating council tax bills by freezing council tax for the next two years.
To protect the interests of local communities and strengthen local democracy, it will also allow residents to veto excessive rises in the future through the Localism Bill.
Although this is an essential step, more can be done to help families everyday with their cost of living in and around Wokingham and Bracknell.
This is why the Government is consulting on proposals to help people further with their council tax bills.
The decision comes with an extra £650 million set aside by Chancellor George Osborne in the Comprehensive Spending Review, to help local authorities with further funding.
The new grant scheme proposed in the review is open to all authorities who have decided to freeze or reduce their council tax this year.
This will help Wokingham council to receive additional funding for the year 2012 and 2013, which is equivalent to raising the council tax by 2.5 per cent.
In 2012-2013 Wokingham council will get a grant of £3,935,876 and Bracknell Forest will get £2,436,399 – almost double the amount of the previous year.
In addition, the proposed reforms would make it easier for taxpayers to manage their payments by giving them a new right to pay in 12 monthly payments.
This should especially benefit those people on fixed incomes, such as pensioners.
A recent report by the Audit Commission found that this year the vast majority of councils have sound financial management and are strongly placed to manage funding reductions.
Further, the Audit Commission found that, on average, single tier county councils held unallocated reserves equivalent to two-thirds of their grant reductions.
However, 27 councils have rejected the government’s freeze funding – equivalent to one year’s 2.5% increase – with many arguing they cannot afford to lose the income from their tax base in later years without cutting services.
I can say with absolute certainty that Bracknell constituency’s local authorities are doing their best to ensure the economic vitality of the region is preserved and I am impressed to announce that both councils kept over £12 million in reserve and hence have a financial cushion to meet sudden unexpected costs.
I welcome the news that in these difficult economic times both local authorities in my constituency have chosen to ease the living costs of hard-working families and pensioners by freezing council taxes for the next two years.