Mr Pickles will be pleased. Most councils are set to freeze council tax this year

A press release from DCLG yesterday announced that over 200 councils have signalled intentions to freeze council tax over 2012/13.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said

“Freezing council tax is a concrete way councils can support residents in tough times, by keeping bills down for local families. Anything less is a kick in the teeth to hard-working, decent taxpayers which is why it is great that over 200 councils have already pledged to freeze.

“Most councils will be setting their budgets in the next few weeks and I fully expect the number freezing to climb further. For council taxpayers who’ve seen their bills double since 1997 to around £120 a month they need that decision to go their way.”

I think current LGiU research will make Mr. Pickles happy. Working with the MJ, we have surveyed key finance officers in local government – with one of the questions being ‘In 2012, do you plan to freeze your council tax or increase it above the 25% ‘deal’ offered by the Government?’

So far, just shy of 94% of all authorities have said they will opt for the freeze. What’s more, a good number of these authorities are not on the official list of 201 ‘freezer’ councils can released by Eland House (pdf). My prediction then is for the final number to be more towards the 300 mark.

However, despite opting for the Government’s deal this year, 78% of councils say they would sooner have the freedom in 2013/14 to raise council tax at whatever rate they feel appropriate. It will be interesting to see how Pickles plays this over the next 12 months.

The survey not only asked about council tax though. We are also gathering information on business rates, future borrowing plans, benefits and Tax Increment Finance powers.

Results will be published next week in the MJ. If you want to be among the first to receive the full data, please sign up to our blog here.