Wakefield Council Leader Denise Jeffery accuses Chancellor of 'political cowardice' over council tax rise

The leader of Wakefield Council has accused of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt of 'political cowardice' following his announcement that council tax bills can be increased by up to five per cent.
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The Chancellor today announced in his Autumn Statement that local levies can be increased in a bid to plug an estimated £55bn hole in the Government's budget.

It means councils can increase tax bills without the permission of residents, to fund social care and other stretched local services.

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Previously, councils needed to hold a referendum to increase council tax by more than three percent.

Councillor Denise Jeffery said: “This budget statement has done nothing to address the concerns of ordinary people and is one long admission of 12 years of woeful economic mismanagement of this country.

“It fails to tackle the very issues that are at the heart of the daily lives of many thousands of people in our district, who are suffering from squeezed household budgets, rising living costs, and escalating fuel bills.

“The government themselves admit that rising prices will erode real wages and reduce living standards by seven per cent in total over the next two years - wiping out the previous eight years’ growth.

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"That is a disaster for thousands of families in this district."

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Last month, a stark financial report warned that Wakefield Council is dealing with one of the most serious financial challenges it has ever faced.

It faces a budget gap of almost £85m over the next five years is expecting to overspend its budget by more than £11 this financial year.

The Council has to cope with a rise in demand for many of its key services, particularly adult and children’s social care services.

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Schools also face increasing pressure, with 12 of 55 schools across the district expected to end the financial year with a deficit.

Coun Jeffery added: “The decision to enable councils to increase the rate of Council tax is pure political cowardice.

"The Government is dumping responsibility to repair its mismanagement on local authorities and forcing local taxpayers to pick up the bill.

"The reality is that our residents and the rest of the country will pay more taxes for less services.

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“This budget does nothing to solve the massive funding issues we face as a council.

"It actually makes our situation far worse as more hard-pressed households in our district seek support and assistance from us.

"Even Tory Councils such as Hampshire last week said the cuts cannot go on.

“The media are already reporting that living standards will drop this year at a level not seen since comparable records began in the 1950s.

"A Conservative government legacy that means we face the very bleakest of winters.”