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Pickles hits out at ‘democracy dodging’ councils

By Vivienne Russell | 28 January 2013

Councils that are planning to increase council tax without holding a local referendum have been slammed as ‘democracy dodgers’ by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.

Eric Pickles
Photo: PA
Pickles said local authorities should ‘man up’ and ‘be straight with people’. Those planning on circumventing a local poll, by setting their tax increase just below the 2% threshold, could lose out on Whitehall funds next year, he warned.

‘Councils should stop treating residents with contempt,’ Pickles wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

‘Democracy dodgers who try to creep in under the radar, putting up their stealth tax by 1.99% in a bid to avoid our 2% referendum threshold, need a reality check. We will take into consideration anybody cheating their taxpayers. Anybody using loopholes will lose out next year.’

He added that the ‘days of the kneejerk tax and spend hike’ were over. He praised councils that were either freezing or cutting their council tax, including West Sussex, Wolverhampton and Windsor & Maidenhead.

Pickles announced in October that £450m was available to help councils fund a third successive council tax freeze in 2013/14.

But the Local Government Association said the government’s offer was a short-term one that did nothing to ameliorate the long-term pressures they were facing.

An LGA spokesman said: ‘Government is cutting council funding by 33% and the sheer scale of the spending reductions is taking a toll on local services. This is despite the fact that councils have delivered significant efficiency savings, scaled back discretionary services and reduced the annual pay bill by more than £1.4bn.’

The spokesman added that, in order to continue maintaining services and promoting local economic growth, councils needed the discretion to consider the long-term interests of their residents.

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It rather begs the question as to why a threshold was set doesn't it Eric ? Perhaps the answer can be found in the same cupboard as the cabinet stock of large pointy shoes and stick on red noses.

Neil Timms (29/01/2013 15:22:00)

Maybe I'm missing something here, but I thought local democracy in this country was exercised thrrough local elections, not referenda. If everything a duly elected council does then has to be put out to a referendum just because HMG doesn't like it (even though it is otherwise quite legal) then what is the point of electing local councillors in the first place? This isn't about democracy - it's about diktat.

Dominic Ion (31/01/2013 18:33:07)

If Mr Pickles wants to deal with democracy dodgers shouldn't he start with the House of Lords and the Monarchy?

Gerry Dominey (01/02/2013 10:07:00)