BROMLEY'S council tax will be capped by the Government if council chiefs fail to explain huge increases.

Officials at the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) have written to the council, demanding to know why there has been a 36 per cent rise in council tax since 1998.

To add to the indignity of possible direct Government intervention, it was revealed Bromley and only one other London borough have been called to account.

Bromley Council chief executive David Bartlett has until Friday (August 17) to prepare a response.

He told the News Shopper: "We will be responding, explaining expenditure pressures, particularly in education and social services which have caused the increase in council tax."

An average Bromley householder, who lives in a council tax band D home, now pays £826 a year compared to £580 in 1997/98.

A series of heated exchanges during a council meeting saw the ruling Conservatives blaming the former Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition for the rises.

Council leader Councillor Michael Tickner stormed: "This is extremely serious as it is the sort of letter you get before the Government takes enforcement action.

"It's like the local authority being sent to prison and not being trusted to conduct itself properly.

"The Conservatives will now have to sort out the financial mess left by our predecessors and explain their actions.

"It just feels like we are having to take the punishment for someone else's mistakes."

But former council leader, Liberal Democrat chief Councillor Chris Maines, laid the blame firmly at the Government's door.

He said: "We didn't receive enough Government grant in Bromley so we were forced to put up council tax by disproportionate amounts in order to maintain levels of service.

"Bromley is considered an affluent area so over the years less money has been allocated. But if the Conservatives feel cuts can be made easily, then they will have no problem in setting a nil per cent increase next year."

A DTLR spokesman said: "We are concerned about the high council tax increases and have asked Bromley Council to set out reasons for these rises.

"It is only fair we allow them to justify themselves.

"But if we are not satisfied with the answers we have the power to enforce budget limits in subsequent years."


Responding to readers' outrage at massive council tax hikes, the News Shopper, this year, called local authorities to task.

A series of articles and letters to councillors demanded an end to ever-spiralling rises and called them to pledge not to raise tax above the rate of inflation. Thousands of you immediately backed our call for action and we promised to continue fighting on your behalf.

With the news Bromley faces enforcement, we believe each and every resident deserves honest answers.

I would ask all of you to write to: David Bartlett, Chief Executive at Bromley Council, Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley BR1 3UH demanding a personal response which answers the following:

*Exactly what your council tax has been spent on;

*Gives a commitment from every councillor they will not vote to raise council tax above the rate of inflation;

*States what facilities/amenities in your road or street will be improved as a result of any future rise in council tax.

Send a copy of the replies to me, Andrew Parkes, Editor, News Shopper, Mega House, Crest View Drive, Petts Wood, Kent BR5 1BT. The replies you will be used in our Fair Tax for All campaign.

August 15, 2001 9:38

Matt Bamsey