THE Government has been accused of forcing local councils to pass on unpopular tax rises.

Councillor Stewart Young, Labour leader of Cumbria County Council, said funding for local authorities had been slashed since 2010. This meant, he claimed, they had to hike council tax to help bridge the funding gap for services such as adult social care.

Mr Young, who represents Upperby, Carlisle, spoke out at a meeting of the cabinet in Carlisle yesterday, as the council launched its annual budget consultation - and is seeking a 3.99 per cent rise in council tax.

It includes a 1.99 per cent on its council tax precept and a two per cent precept to help the spiralling costs of adult social care.

It is equivalent to £55.28 per year increase for an average Band D property, or £1.06 per week.

Mr Young said: “What’s been happening over the last 10 years or so is that there has been a shift in the funding from a reliance on central Government funding, to a reliance on council tax.

“So what the public is experiencing is they are paying more tax and getting less services. I totally understand why people are saying ‘why are you asking us to pay extra for social care?’”

He suggested the consultation was a foregone conclusion because the Government ‘assumed’ council tax rises would be implemented.

“We will consult and take the decision carefully but if we don’t increase council tax by these amounts then we will have to find other savings to cover the loss of that,” said Mr Young.

Councillor Patricia Bell, cabinet member for health and care services, suggested there were very few efficiencies left to make.

“We are surely reaching the point where we are going to have to cut services,” warned Cllr Bell, the Liberal Democrat for Penrith East.

“No-one wants to do that but how can we go on managing to deliver what we deliver within the resources we have got?

“One of the most frustrating things I find as a councillor is trying to deliver that message about why people are getting less services for the council tax they are paying. “Residents are very angry at politicians nationally, never mind the colour of their party.”