Local authority comms chiefs face 'huge challenge' over council tax rises

Beleaguered local government comms teams are facing the unenviable task of persuading people to pay more for council tax and receiving fewer services in return, amid concern over major shortfalls in council budgets.

Council tax rises across England means services will have to be cut (┬ętookapic via Pixabay)
Council tax rises across England means services will have to be cut (┬ętookapic via Pixabay)
Councils across England will have to cut services, despite most local authorities planning to raise council tax by up to 4.99 per cent. 

This is made up of a three per cent charge for social care and a 1.99 per cent rise in council tax - the maximum it can be increased in a single year without having to have a local referendum.

With local government facing an overall funding gap of £5.8 billion by 2020, some £2.6bn of which is due to rising costs of social care, council tax rises alone will not prevent the need for continued cutbacks to local services, warned the Local Government Association (LGA) this morning. 

Responding to the news, Simon Jones, chair of LGcomms, the network of local authority communications teams, told PRWeek: "Increasing tax while cutting services is a huge comms challenge, which is why council PR teams have to be as clear as possible in explaining the reason for this."

He added: "If a family’s take-home pay was cut by 40 per cent at a time when bills were increasing they would have to make difficult decisions to make ends meet. That is what is happening to local government, but we have to get better as engaging the public around these issues."

The LGA’s comms team went on the offensive earlier today, issuing a press release warning that council tax rises will not be enough to solve the "funding crisis" in local government. 

It issued a series of tweets, including a comment from LGA chairman Lord Porter of Spalding: "Social care faces a funding gap of at least £2.6 billion by 2020. It cannot be left to council taxpayers alone to try and fix this crisis." 

More cuts will be needed, as councils are being pushed "perilously close to the financial edge" according to the LGA.

Yet, in stark contrast to the messages being communicated by local authorities, central government claims that it is giving more money to councils. 

In a statement, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman insisted that local authorities had been given a "historic" four-year funding settlement, enabling them to plan for the future, with almost £200bn available "to provide the services that local people want".

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