Unison, the UK’s largest union, is urging councils to think long and hard about the impact on local services before they freeze council tax.
Earlier this week the Chancellor offered councils a grant equal to a one per cent increase in their council tax if they agreed to freeze their council taxes in 2013/14. The union says councils in England already face the loss of nearly £2bn next year, as well as inflation of around three per cent and budget pressures from a growing elderly population. Council’s that agreed to freeze their council taxes this year (2012/13) were given a grant that was equivalent to a 2.5 per cent increase instead but it is a one-off payment and disappears in 2013/14. Unison says the first call on any extra income will be to fill the gap created by the loss of the council tax freeze grant for 2012/13. Northamptonshire County Council received a council tax freeze grant of £6m for 2012/13, with a grant of £2.4m for 2013/14, leaving it to find £3.6m, a figure equivalent to the cost of 331 level 1 teaching assistants, according to the union.
Andy Belfield, UNISON’s regional head of local government, said: “The Government is plunging councils into further economic meltdown.
“Offering a one per cent ‘bribe’ to freeze council tax will leave a financial black hole that can only be filled by cutting more jobs and vital services.
“It is a bad deal for council taxpayers who are losing quality services and cuts to everything from elderly care to libraries, children’s services and swimming pools. “It shows the wisdom of councils like Corby, East Northamptonshire, Gedling, Leicester and Nottingham in the East Midlands who rejected the freeze grant last year because they wanted more control over their finances.”