‘Chronic underfunding’ forces cuts to services including social care, roads and libraries
'Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax from April and three-quarters intend to raise it above 2.75%, research reveals.
The maximum rise allowed without a local referendum is 2.99%. Similar proportions plan to raise charges and fees.
Despite council tax bills soaring, many residents face further cuts in services. Most councils warned that they would be reducing a range of services, from adult social care to libraries and recycling.
The annual survey by the Local Government Information Unit thinktank found that cuts were increasingly visible and that after eight years of austerity – which has cost English councils 40% of their central funding – half of councils felt cuts were now “negatively affecting relationships with citizens”.
Cuts to services such as pothole repair, waste collection, school crossing patrols and libraries proved especially unpopular, the research found. Last week Somerset and Northamptonshire county councils reversed winter gritting cuts after a public outcry when untreated roads caused several car accidents during the recent cold snap.
One in 20 councils said they were concerned that funding cuts were now so deep that they would struggle to deliver the legal minimum level of services. Almost one in 10 anticipate legal challenges from the public against proposed cuts in service provision.
The survey found 80% of councils have no confidence that the current model of local government finance is sustainable. More than half have drawn down reserves to stay afloat. More than three-quarters have borrowed cash to invest in commercial property in the hope the returns will cover budget gaps.'
Read more: Council tax to rise across England as austerity hits hard