A PLANNED council tax increase for Chester residents scrapes just below the two per cent threshold needed to trigger a referendum.
Councils have been urged to freeze bills by the government but Tory-run Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) wants to put council tax up by 1.9 per cent.
Ministers insist any increase above two per cent would need public approval and communities secretary Eric Pickles has warned councils against dodging referendums.
CWaC has frozen council tax for the past two years but now hopes to raise almost £140 million by asking households to dig deeper.
“What residents really want is cuts to taxes not bin collections; potholes filled not pockets,” wrote Mr Pickles in the Daily Telegraph.
“Councils that put their people first will get the idea.
“To those that don’t we’re sending out a message loud and clear. The days of the knee-jerk tax and spend hike are over.”
Mr Pickles said he was not completely opposed to tax rises – but insisted council should have to win the public over.
“Authorities have a duty to support their residents,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with councils that want to put up council tax if they have a good reason, to fund local opportunities. If the public believes you’ve got a sensible case they might well listen. But councils should also stop treating residents with contempt.”
Chancellor George Osborne offered all councils grants equivalent to a one per cent rise but CWaC looks set to reject his offer in favour of a bigger increase.
CWaC says an ‘ageing population, difficult economic climate, inflation increases and a desire to improve services’ has increased the financial pressure on the council.
The authority said the council tax freeze grant does not tie in with its four-year financial planning strategy and would only provide ‘short-term’ funding.
The planned rise will see council tax for a band D property go up from £1,254.59 to £1,275.23 a year.
Executive members will be asked to approve the increase on Tuesday before the proposals go before the full council on February 28.