Council tax hike '4.7%' in Essex

THE smallest ever rise in council tax in Essex will be announced today, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.Essex County Council is preparing to increase the central levy – which makes up around 80% of the total charge – by 4.

By Roddy Ashworth

THE smallest ever rise in council tax in Essex will be announced today, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

Essex County Council is preparing to increase the central levy – which makes up around 80% of the total charge – by 4.7%

The rise, to be announced by council leader Lord Hanningfield at a press conference this morning, comes a year after the county imposed a massive 16% increase on people living in the county.


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Last night, a spokesman for Essex County Council refused to comment on the figure.

But he added: "There are reasons that would suggest there could be a significant reductions in the increase of council tax.

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"Last year we had the worst settlement, while this year we are above average, with an extra 5.5%, as well as additional money announced just before Christmas."

It will mean that the county's share of the council tax will go up from £896.40 to around £940 on a Band D household.

It is thought that figure takes into account new funding arrangements for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service – which last year was included in the county's share, but this year is due to be added separately.

As well as the amount taken by county, taxpayers will also face charges from district councils as well as costs towards the police.

Although the police have not announced their figures yet, if they stayed the same as last year a person living in the average Band D property in Colchester would face a council tax bill of around £1,180 – up 4.7% - while in Tendring the cost would be around £1,155, up 5%.

The low central rise comes after Essex County Council conducted a thorough review of its discretionary services.

Cutbacks – leading to some redundancies - were made in the enterprise, communications and human resources departments.

However the council was also helped by its Government settlement, which with an increase of 5.5% was above the national average of 4.75%.

The Secretary of State for Education, Charles Clarke, also allocated £8.9 million to help schools with budgetary difficulties while Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced extra cash for councils just before Christmas.

The increase in central council tax is the smallest since it was introduced 10 years ago.

In 1994/1995 it rose by 5.8%, the lowest previous amount.

In 2001/2002, Essex County Council increased its share by 8.25%, in 2001/2002 by 8%, in 2002/2003 by 9.7% and 2003/2004 – the current financial year – by 16.7%.

Leading council tax campaigner in Essex, Tony Constable, from Colchester, was unvailable for comment last night.

n People living in Colchester will see a rise of 7.2% in their council tax imposed by the local borough this year.

The figure – slightly less than the 7.8% expected – will amount to an increase of £9.90 for an average Band D property in the year 2004/2005.

But despite the rise in council tax, local politicians said yesterday there would have to be cuts made in some services, probably including the closure of two old peoples' activity centres and reductions in the professional ranger provision at Highwoods Country Park.

Tendring District Council has already indicated it will impose a rise of 9.9%, which works out at an additional £10.97.

However, borough and district councils keep hold of only a small proportion of the tax – in the year 2003/2004 their allocation only equated to around 12% of the total amount.

The rest was split between Essex County Council (in 2003/2004, 79%), Essex Police (8%) and parish councils (1%).

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