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Here's how much council tax has gone up in 10 years in every Surrey district; Residents are paying nearly a third more in council tax than they were a decade ago, despite stagnant real wages and years of service cuts.

Byline: Christopher McKeon

Council tax billsin Surrey have risen by an average of [pounds sterling]462 a year per household in the past decade, Surrey Live analysis has shown.

Tax rates have risen steadily since 2009 as councils have been squeezed between rising demand and drastic cuts in funding from central government.

Surrey Live looked at the council tax bills in each area for a Band D property in 2009/10 and the proposed bills for the forthcoming tax year - 2019/20.

Although the individual annual increases of district and borough councils, the county council and police have been relatively small, our analysis shows they add up to an overall increase of 31.8% in 2019/20 when compared to the total bill in 2009/10.

Council cuts and taxes

Inflation over the same period has been just 25% and real wages have stagnated.

Most of that increase has come fromSurrey County Council, whichapproved a Band D rate of [pounds sterling]1,453.50on February 5 - an increase of 33.4% compared to 2009/10 when its Band D rate was [pounds sterling]1,089.18.

However, the county council still faces major funding problems. In the same period, its revenue support grant from central government was reduced from [pounds sterling]23.6 million to [pounds sterling]0 while demand, particularly for adult social care, has continued to rise.

As a result, the council must make yet more cuts despite its inflation-busting tax increases, includingthe closure of more than half the county's children's centresand changes to concessionary bus passes.

Speaking at the budget meeting on February 5, council leader Tim Oliver said: "In truth we have not done enough in the past to ensure our finances are sustainable and this is now a major piece of work. But I am determined we will put this council's finances on a solid footing as quickly as possible."

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Surrey's borough and district councils have also seen their revenue support grants eliminated, but have managed to keep tax increases below inflation. On average, borough and district councils have increased their precepts 18.6% since 2009.

The largest proportional increase (24.7%) has been fromEpsom and Ewell Borough Council, while the smallest was made byElmbridge Borough Council, which increased council tax by just 11.1% in a decade.

Elmbridge used to have the second-highest council tax in Surrey, behindWoking, but has since been overtaken byReigate and Banstead.

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These increases do not include the various parish council precepts, which increase council tax levels even further, albeit by much smaller amounts.

Surrey'sPolice and Crime Commissionerhas also instituted above-inflation increases in recent years,including a 10% hike for 2019/20.

In total, the police precept has risen 34.4% since 2009/10 while the force's government grants have fallen in real terms by almost 20%.

Cllr Chris Botton, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Surrey County Council, said the council tax system was "unjust, impacts the most on the poorest and has been made much worse by austerity".

He added: "The policy of austerity has resulted in many councils losing all their government grant support. Hard pressed councils therefore have had to look to raising council tax as one means to continue to deliver essential services to all residents, and especially the vulnerable.

"Nothing has been done to relieve the councils of their statutory responsibilities, so they have had no choice.

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"Despite the caps placed on the size of a council tax rise, there has been a significantly larger tax burden placed on residents, of whom the poor and those on fixed incomes are most affected by taxes which are related to an ancient valuation of the property they live in rather than their disposable income."

Not all the council tax increases have been approved so far, some have only been proposed and still need to be voted on by full councils.

However, the increases for the coming year are unlikely to change from the proposals put forward by each council.

Citizens Advice has raised concerns about the impact of rising council tax rates on debt across the UK, exacerbated by councils imposing "unrealistic" repayment plans for those in arrears as they attempt to ensure higher collection rates.

The organisation says on its website: "Council tax arrears is the most common debt issue we help people with.

"This issue has risen by a third in the last three years - at a time when other debt issues have been falling."

CAPTION(S):

Credit: Surrey Advertiser / Steve Porter

Council tax pays for pothole repairs, among other things

Credit: Surrey Advertiser

County Council leader Tim Oliver said the authority hadn't done enough to ensure its financial stability in previous years.

Credit: Surrey Advertiser/ Darren Pepe

PCC David Munro increased the police precept by 10% in 2019, following a 5% increase the year before.

Credit: Alex Boyd

Bin collections are among the things that council tax pays for
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Publication:Get Surrey (Surrey, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2019
Words:862
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