Almost every household in England will be hit by a huge council tax rise of up to 6% from April.
Millions of families across the country will be affected by the change, with council tax set to rise in 95% of authorities while 93% will hike service fees, according to the 2018 State of Local Government Finance research.
As reported by the BBC, the planned increases have been implemented as 80% of councils fear for their balance sheets with many authorities in England teetering on the edge of a financial crisis.
The annual finance survey from the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) comes just days after Northamptonshire county council became the first town hall in two decades to declare effective bankruptcy, after severe financial pressures had left the council unable to deliver a workable budget.
Council tax can rise by 3% this year, in line with inflation, although the largest authorities will be allowed to increase it by up to 5.99%.
Police forces are also being forced to impose the £12 maximum possible ‘precept’, which comes on top of any normal rise, just to keep pace with inflation.
Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGIU, said: “Councils are on the edge. They are, for the most part, holding services together – although a significant minority are not. But they can only do this by raising council tax, increasing charging and draining their reserves.”
According to the report, the biggest pressure on authorities’ budgets is children’s services (nearly 32% of councils), followed closely by adult social care (close to 28%), then housing and homelessness (19%).
Lord Porter, the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association (LGA), added: “Extra council-tax-raising powers will helpfully give some councils the option to raise some extra income, but will not bring in enough to completely ease the financial pressure they face.
“This means many councils face having to ask residents to pay more council tax while offering fewer services as a result.”
Council tax pays for local services such as planning, transport, highways, police, fire, libraries, leisure and recreation, rubbish collection and disposal, environmental health and trading standards.
1. Check your council tax band
According to recent stats, up to 400,000 households in England and Scotland could actually be in the wrong council tax band.
2. Pay it over 12 months rather than 10
Government legislation means that all councils in England must now allow you to pay your council tax over 12 months.
If you live in England, contact your council and tell them you want to change to the 12 month payment schedule.
3. If you’re a full-time student, you shouldn’t be paying
If you’re a full-time student living alone or with other students you don’t need to pay council tax at all.
If you’re a full-time student living with a non-student, you also don’t need to pay and the non-student is treated as though they live alone and can claim the 25% single person’s discount.
If you’re a full-time student living with more than one non-student, you’re still exempt, but because there are two non-students the house has to pay the full 100% charge.
4. If you live alone, you could get a 25% discount
If you live alone or are classed as the only adult in the home in England, Scotland or Wales, you may be eligible for a 25% single person’s discount.
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