Council tax rise to be below £50

By Ted JeoryHOUSEHOLDERS could see council tax bills rise by less than £50 after a number of local authorities said their charges would not increase by more than 5%.

By Ted Jeory

HOUSEHOLDERS could see council tax bills rise by less than £50 after a number of local authorities said their charges would not increase by more than 5%.

Colchester Borough Council has become the latest local authority in Essex to rein in its council tax rise, saying its bill for year 2005/6 would increase by just 3.6%.

It followed similar moves from other Conservative-controlled councils, which were handed larger than expected Government grants before Christmas.

Tendring District Council's cabinet was one of the country's first to go public with its council tax plans when it announced more than week ago a recommended rise of 4.5%.

Braintree District Council leaders said they would “definitely” have an increase of less than 5%, while Maldon District Council said it would go for a 4.98% rise.

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Graham Butland, leader of Braintree District Council, said: “Although councils are going low, they can't go too low because that would present problems for future years. In Braintree, we'll definitely not go above 5%.”

However, the bulk of householders' council tax bills are made up by charges levied by Essex County Council, which is due to unveil its increase next week.

It is understood the council is strongly considering setting its tax rise at about 4%, which would mean band D households being charged about £927 from April - £36 more than this financial year.

With the fire authority announcing a rise of 1.28% and Essex Police Authority hoping to limit its increase to 4.9%, the final bills for band D householders are unlikely to increase by more than £50.

If the predicted rises are confirmed, council tax bills for band D householders in Colchester could be about £1,240, in Tendring about £1,214, in Braintree about £1,226 and in Maldon about £1,232.

Colchester Borough Council's cabinet is set to make its 3.6% recommendation later this month.

Council leader John Jowers said: “We have listened to residents' concerns and done whatever we can to make sure any increase is kept as low as possible. It's hugely good news for our residents - there will be no cuts on services.”

But Tim Young, Labour group leader, said: “The authority had a generous Government settlement, so there should not have been any high rises.

“But it's what the council does with the money it gets that's important rather than just wasting it on not collecting rubbish.”

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