Why families will be paying £99 a year more in council tax
The average council tax bill is set to hit more than £2,000 for the first time this year, in a fresh cost of living blow for households.
Four in five local authorities have opted to effectively increase their rates by the maximum amount, adding £99 to how much a typical household will have to pay.
Rates will rise by an average of 5.1 per cent across England from next month, pushing the cost for a standard Band D property up to £2,065.
Councils insisted they had “no choice” as they fight rising inflation, but low tax campaigners said they should “get a grip on waste” instead.
Families in Rutland face the biggest bills in the country at £2,422 a year, followed by Nottingham at £2,412 and Lewes at £2,388.
Despite the rises, which are the highest in recent years, councils have warned that they will have to make at least £1 billion in savings to balance the books.
They are set to make cuts to services including bus routes, street lighting, recycling centres, and community health services.
Town halls can increase their regular bills by three per cent, plus an optional extra of up to two per cent for social care services, without holding a local referendum.
Analysis of official government statistics shows that 188 raised the basic rates they are charging families by 4.9 per cent or more.
Of the 153 major authorities, just two did not trigger the extra top-up, which adds an average of £30 to the typical Band D bill.
Central Bedfordshire was the only council in the country to announce that it was completely freezing this year’s rates for residents.
'There is already little fat to cut'
Charges for other local services are also included in final household bills, with the rates for covering police and fire rising by over six per cent.
Even so, analysis by the County Councils Network and Society of County Treasurers found England’s largest councils will be cash-strapped.
They calculated that authorities will need to save £1 billion and spend £350 million in reserves to meet the legal requirement to balance their books.
That is because inflation is set to add £1.6 billion to their running costs at a time when the cost of living crisis means demand for services is increasing.
Cllr Carl Les, the leader of North Yorkshire Council and the CCN’s finance spokesman, said authorities had “little option” but to raise their rates.
“We understand that residents are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, and many of us have reluctantly proposed maximum council tax rises,” he said.
“But even this is not enough, with councils in county areas having to make a further £1 billion worth of savings and use ‘rainy day’ reserves just to balance the books.
“While councils will do all they can next year to deliver these savings whilst protecting vital care services, particularly care services, there is already little fat to cut.”
'Get a grip on waste in town halls'
Responding to the figures, a spokesman for the Taxpayers' Alliance said: "Councils have shown that when given an inch they’ll take a mile, hitting households with record rate rises during a cost of living crisis.
“There has never been a better time for local bosses to get a grip on waste in town halls, as households struggle with persistent inflation and a record tax burden.
“Local authorities now need to focus funds on the front line and demonstrate to residents that their hard-earned money won’t be wasted.”