Michael Fabricant has expressed alarm at a probable major Council Tax hike
next year in Staffordshire following a letter that has been written to
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott by the Local Government Association
outlining their fears about an £800million funding deficit. "The situation
is particularly bad in Staffordshire where we receive a shortfall of funds
for education and policing which amounts for a major part of our local
council tax bill. Staffordshire receives almost the worst funding for any
county in the country. We get a very raw deal indeed from the Government
and local residents are likely to feel this in their pocket when Council Tax
bills come through next year", says Michael Fabricant.
A national £300m shortfall in education funding, £200m gap for police
and £300m needed for social services, the environment and licensing have
all been blamed for the funding gap by the Local Government Association.
The threat to raise council taxes comes at a sensitive time after ministers
signalled they would cap rate hikes, arguing that local authorities have
received bumper settlements in recent years.
However Local Government Association chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham said
the growth in government funding did not match the additional spending
commitments forced onto councils. "Schools, children’s and adult social
services, traffic management and cleaning up the environment are only some
of the many areas where spending has to rise, " Sir Jeremy said. "The
problem for this coming year is the perception that council tax levels have
already reached the heights of acceptability, but most
councils have nowhere else to go to raise income. I hope – in the spirit
of co-operation that means the government can agree with us as to the
problem – we can find a short-term solution. Unfortunately for now, that
solution isn’t in local authorities’ hands,
but in the hands of the government."
The funding amount for local government is expected to be announced at
the end of this month and Michael Fabricant will then raise the particular
problem of school funding in Staffordshire – made worse by the surprise
announcement by the Secretary of State for Education, Charles Clarke,
declaring that Staffordshire will not be receiving transitional funding