Dan Peters 05 January 2023

Brown to ask Government to bypass referendum limit

Brown to ask Government to bypass referendum limit image
Image: Malgosia Janicka/Shutterstock.com

The chief executive of troubled Slough Council is preparing to ask the Government for permission to increase council tax above the 5% legal limit.

Stephen Brown’s letter to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is expected to ask for permission to levy a higher rate for the next two years without holding a referendum after senior councillors agreed.

A spokesperson for struggling Slough, which issued a section 114 notice in 2021, said the amount of any additional council tax increase had ‘not yet been agreed’.

In a report to senior councillors, officers warned there was a ‘strong likelihood that the voting electorate will vote against’ any proposed council tax rise in a referendum.

The report to the latest cabinet meeting read: ‘Given the level of financial uncertainty and current service pressures, there is clearly a risk that the current and future year’s budgets may prove difficult to deliver without additional income from council tax to bridge some of the budget gap.

‘In light of these challenging financial issues and the current uncertainty around the economy and local government finances, above referendum increases to council tax would be an option to help address the financial situation and help ensure the council’s financial sustainability.’

Only one council tax referendum has taken place to date, with Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner Olly Martins losing a referendum over a proposed 15.8% increase in council tax in 2015 by 69.5% to 30.5%.

Northamptonshire CC was allowed to levy an extra 2% council tax in 2019-20 after running into financial difficulty.

A Government spokesperson said it expected councils to ‘exercise restraint to protect taxpayers from excessive costs’ but would consider any request for exceptional financial support from Slough.

This article was originally published by The MJ (£)

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