Central government has once again changed expectations around Council Tax by allowing bigger rises. The maximum has now gone up to 5.99%, part of this is ringfenced to pay for social services which are now (after years of central government driven austerity) close to collapse. It is effectively a way for the government to kick the can along the road a bit longer. It doesn't really solve the long term problems of social services, the crisis in local government funding or the democratic deficit in local democracy.
I shall be interested in seeing how Brent Council responds. From 2010, Council Tax was frozen, but that was at a time when central government offered Council Tax freezing councils a grant greater than the value of a rise. This grant was then reduced over time to be worth worth less than a rise. This led to the odd situation in the 2015 budget when the Labour Group favoured a rise, and the Executive refused to enact it. In 2016, the Executive switched to a policy of having a maximum rise (which would now be just short of 6%). This is also now in line with central government expectation which is effectively pressuring Councils to raise Council Tax as much as possible to offset the pressures created by other government cuts both past and present. Altogether it is an incredibly messy and ineffective way for central government to meddle with local government.
The other question it raises is what are local councillors going to do in discussing all this? The budget has to be set legally by the end of March, and ideally a bit before so that Council Tax bills can go out smoothly. Given the forthcoming elections in May, the issue is even more politically sensitive than usual, although past evidence is that the public perceive the Council Tax as going up whether it does or not. We are now in January, and any discussion will have to happen fairly soon.