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Are you ready for a council tax hike?

How’s your year going so far? Pretty smooth up to now? Well don’t get too comfortable as your local council has probably just thrown a spanner in the works, says consumer journalist Christine Toner.

council tax

January payday finally arrived after officially the longest gap between paydays since the dawn of time (no you’re being dramatic!) and you’ve finally got back on track after overspending during the festive season. Enter stage right your local council to ruin your day.

Yes, according to the latest State of Local Government Finance Survey, almost every council in England is planning to increase council tax to make ends meet this year.

And thanks to funding plans laid out by communities secretary Sajid Javid, from April the maximum that most authorities can increase council tax by without triggering a referendum will rise from 2% to 3%. Given that the average Band D charge is £1,593, that would mean an average increase of £47.

The impact is likely to vary across the country, because council tax is made up of different components in different areas. Some councils, for example, fund social care: these have an average Band D charge of £1,591, and are allowed to raise charges by up to 5.99% in April without triggering a referendum. That would increase bills by an average of £95.

The bigger you are, the harder it’ll hit

“These are robust rises, on top of average increases over the past four years of a total of £135,” explains Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. “If you live in a more expensive area or in a larger property, you’ll face more painful bill hikes.

“In isolation, most households could find another £47 a year for their council tax, but the trouble is that this isn’t happening in isolation. Prices have been rising across the board, from supermarket shopping to household bills, and with interest rises on the horizon, there’s a risk that mortgage bills will be increasing too. At the same time, wages are failing to keep up with inflation, so consumers are facing a spending squeeze.”

“It makes it essential for consumers to shop around for the best possible deals. There may be nothing you can do about it if your council chooses to hike its charges, but by keeping the rest of your spending under control, you stand a better chance of keeping on top of your household budget.”

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