Council leaders are warning of deep cuts to services despite nearly every local authority in England planning to raise council tax in 2017.  Increases of up to 4.99% are expected across the country, but libraries, bin collections and other services will still face funding gaps.  The Local Government Association says the cost of care for increasing numbers of elderly people is forcing up bills. The government insists it is giving more money to councils. All local authorities in England can raise council tax by up to 1.99% in April. Any higher, and they would need to hold a referendum to get residents to agree with the hike before they could put it in place.  But the 151 social care authorities can also increase bills by an extra 3%. This is the social care precept, introduced by George Osborne in 2015 to allow local authorities to raise extra money to specifically pay for social care.  The Local Government Association (LGA) says 147 of these have already agreed or are planning to raise the extra money. And three-quarters are set to introduce the maximum hike. Added together, this means most people in England will be looking at a 4.99% rise in council tax in the coming year.  Many councils say no and their issue stems from a change in the way local services are funded.  Central government grants have been reduced after the government decided to devolve spending from Whitehall to local authorities in 2015.  Councils were offered four-year settlements to help them plan ahead for the removal of the funding, and were told to change to a model where they used council tax and business rates collected locally to pay for services, rather than government grants. By 2020, the grants will be phased out entirely.  The Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said this “historic” four-year settlement gave councils the certainty they needed to plan ahead, with almost £200bn available “to provide the services that local people want”. But the LGA says councils are being pushed “perilously close to the financial edge” by the change and even with the extra money from their residents, they will still need to make cuts to balance the books

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