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Joined: 09/03/2009

The average council tax will fall by around 35 pence this year, the first time the levy has gone down since it began 18 years ago, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has said, although charges would go up in a "handful" of areas.

This should translate into a family in a Band D home saving around £72 a year and follows the government giving councils £650m to help them keep taxes down. The extra money, CIPFA said, meant that local authority budgets were now being cut by 5.5 per cent and not 9.9 per cent as previously feared.

CIPFA head Steve Freer said: "Councils have responded positively to the government's offer of funding to enable council tax freezes. The government and councils have a shared interest in avoiding a public relations disaster of local people paying more for reduced services. Public attention is likely to continue to focus on the service and job cuts which councils determine in order to balance their budgets."

However, CIPFA found that some local authorities were cutting frontline services such as leisure centres and libraries by over 10 per cent, something that Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles found unacceptable.

"Council tax doubled under Labour," he said, "but the new government has frozen council tax, saving hard-working families and pensioners up to £72 this year. We have scrapped Labour's council tax revaluation which would have hammered middle England, and we are giving local residents new rights to veto excessive council tax rises in the future. This is real help now to assist with the cost of living."

But Local Government Association chair Margaret Eaton responded: "Councils have had to take incredibly tough decisions to balance the need to protect frontline services while providing value for money for the taxpayer. They deserve credit for keeping council tax to a minimum, meaning more money in the pockets of residents, at a time when they are facing unprecedented financial pressures."<