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Council tax growth 'outstrips inflation three to one'

The average council tax bill has risen at three times the rate of retail price index (RPI) inflation over the past decade, it has been claimed.Halifax building society says that since 1997 the average council tax bill has increased by 91 per cent, compared to the 31 per cent rise seen in the headline RPI rate.The Conservatives have described the reported increase as Labour's "biggest tax con", while charity Help the Aged has branded the rise a "disgrace".Halifax's data shows that ten years ago the average council tax per dwelling in Britain was £564 and that this figure has now risen to £1,078.Its survey of 408 billing authorities shows that the biggest percentage rise was felt in Monmouthshire (184 per cent), while Westminster, which saw a 149 per cent increase, remains one of the cheapest local authorities in terms of council tax.Overall, one in two areas have witnessed a doubling in council tax rates, with Richmond-upon-Thames possessing the highest bill in the country of £1,665 and Wandsworth the lowest at £641.Martin Ellis, chief economist at Halifax, said: "Council tax bills have increased significantly faster than either average earnings or retail prices over the past ten years."Shadow communities and local government secretary Caroline Spelman commented that the government had increased council tax bills by a total of £12.5 billion every year since 1997."Gordon Brown must take the blame for ten years of inflation-busting council tax rises. Bills have gone up by the equivalent of four pence on income tax thanks to fiddled funding from Whitehall, yet Labour ministers seek to blame councillors when bills hit the doorstep," the Conservative MP said.Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats meanwhile are calling for reform of the "deeply unfair tax"."Hard-working families and pensioners are being squeezed by Gordon Brown's stealth taxes and Labour's stubborn failure to reform council tax," argued the party's communities spokesman Andrew Stunell.

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