Bromley Council will agree next Monday to increase council tax by 4.99% from April. The rise includes a 2.99% general increase and a 2% Social Care surcharge on top.
The GLA precept on top will increase 8.93%. Add both together and the increase is 5.93% – almost triple the rate of inflation.
One fundamental reason for these increases is central government policies to move funding of services from general taxation (including corporation tax, VAT, income tax and others) to council tax. This is despite council tax being regarded as a regressive tax – meaning increases disproportionately hit those on lower incomes.
Funding of police is a great example. The Home Office cut funds heavily from 2010 and they provide nearly 80% of police funding. They then announced an increase in 2018 after heavy pressure but wasn’t so vocal about how it would be paid for. Much of the burden falls on council taxpayers – and as that goes through the GLA in London it explains the near 9% rise. In Kent it will be a surcharge from the Crime Commissioner.
It’s also a masterstroke from central government to deflect blame for cuts or inadequate investment – if you see it that way.
Devolution wouldn’t be so bad if it was wide ranging – but another trick of central Government and the Treasury is to place very tight limits on how local authorities can raise funds – basically through council tax – instead of a wider number of measures. The UK is far more restrictive on local bodies than just about every other developed nation in Europe, North America and Asia.
So they lumber ever more burden locally yet place heavy restrictions on local tax raising powers. Council tax payers bear the brunt – and you see that in your 6% rise from April.