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Now that the 70 minutes of sermonising are over, we should return to the real world. I remind the House that, in this coming year, real council tax payers in England will end up paying more and getting less. There may be a few councils where the council tax will not go up, and there may be one or two where services will not be cut, but, taken overall, nearly every council tax payer in this coming year will pay more and get less because the Government are cutting the grant.
It is not just the Labour party which is saying that. The Minister of State—using elegant phraseology to which I could not possibly aspire—is reported as saying:
We have all been stuffed by the Treasury".
Councillor Rita Taylor, the Tory chair of the Association of District Councils' finance panel, said:
the public are going to have to pay more … Conservatives in local government are in despair at this settlement".
The general situation has not changed much since the Minister made his statement at the beginning of December. From the Government's figures, we can expect the average council tax increase over the whole country
to be about 6 per cent. It will be lower in some areas and higher in others, but even including that average increase, and using again the Government's figures, the money available for councils will be £1.5 billion short of what is being spent on services this year. That does not allow for any forthcoming pay increases, the additional cost of about 100,000 extra children starting school, the needs of more old people, better services for the disabled and other demands.