Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles today (10 February 2015) welcomed the news that over 100 local authorities are set to freeze or lower their Council Tax this year.
New figures showed that 114 town halls and police authorities will take up the offer of the government’s freeze grant, with 8 set to reduce bills for taxpayers.
And the news came as a government analysis showed councils’ have at least a further £30 billion available to them in reserves and uncollected income.
Council reserves stood at £21.4 billion at the end of the last financial year – up from £14.3 billion in 2010 to 2011 – an increase of 50% in just 4 years.
During the same period, town halls failed to collect some £2.5 billion of Council Tax and arrears and lost £2.1 billion to fraud. They also have £220 billion worth of assets on their books, of which £2.5 billion is earmarked as ‘surplus to requirements’.
Speaking ahead of a vote by MPs on the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2015 to 2016, the Secretary of State said the figures showed that it was still possible to provide good frontline services and keep Council Tax down.
Eric Pickles said:
“It’s great news that so many local authorities have already promised to keep bills down for taxpayers and take up our support for freezing or reducing Council Tax.
“Councils account for a quarter of public spending and every bit of the public sector must do its bit to pay off the deficit. But there are more than enough sensible savings to be made before hardworking families should have to foot any more of the bill.
“Reserves have rocketed up in the past few years and councils could be making better use of assets to keep taxes down and protect frontline services, while at the same time doing more to stop the billions they are losing to fraud and collecting more Council Tax arrears.”
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