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£300k vote on Brighton and Hove council tax still possible
City hall bosses have refused to rule out a referendum on council tax which would cost taxpayers £300,000.
The Government revealed earlier this week it was going to offer a cash incentive to local authorities across the country to freeze council tax for the next financial year.
This is at odds with Brighton and Hove City Council’s proposal to increase the rates by 3.5% from April 2013, which was revealed by The Argus earlier this year.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said the authority had yet to make a decision on what it would do, adding it will wait for the full details which may not be clear until the Chancellor’s autumn statement in December.
Coun Kitcat said: “What we do know so far is that the cuts will be even harsher next year than previously suggested.
“Once the details are clear I will be discussing the options with my group and the other group leaders to seek consensus on how we will proceed with council tax.
“We are in a situation where despite their claims to localism, the Government is each year making it harder for local politicians to make their own choices about the appropriate levels of local tax.
“The referendum measures are completely untested and would cost about £300,000 to run in our city. One wonders whether Eric Pickles really ever intended for it to be used.”
Exact details about the Government’s plan for 2013/14 are expected to be announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government in the coming weeks.
It is expected that those councils which freeze rates will receive a one-off payment from Whitehall worth a 1% rise in council tax.
Those local authorities that wish to increase council tax by more than 2% will have to hold a referendum.
Last year the Green council was the first in the country to announce it wanted to increase council tax by 3.5%.
However, opposition parties united to outvote the Greens to freeze the rates for the current year and accept a Government grant worth about £2 million.
Conservative councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “I call on both the Green and Labour groups to get off the fence and join us in delivering a council tax freeze to help hard-pressed residents.”
Labour finance councillor Les Hamilton said: “Until we know what’s going to happen we will not come to any decision.
“I certainly do not think we will be going for a 3.5% rise. My guess is that that it will be a freeze or a 2% rise.”