In the run up to local authorities finalising their budgets for 2017/18, BMG Research has ascertained how interested residents are in having a more direct influence on how their level of Council Tax is set.

All residents were told that currently, if a local council wishes to increase Council Tax by more than 3.99% per year it has to consult local residents through a referendum.*

When asked if they would be likely to take part in a referendum on how much Council Tax should rise if one was held where they live, a majority of 59% of residents agreed that they would take part, with over one third (34%) saying strongly agree.  Just 7% of residents disagreed that they would take part in such a local referendum, while one fifth (21%) said they neither agree nor disagree (13% don’t know).

A closer look at the data reveals regionally, agreement only drops below 50% among London residents (46%). Those in the North West are most receptive to the idea, with two thirds (66%) agreeing to take part in such a referendum. In line with broader trends in terms of democratic involvement the likelihood of residents getting involved in a local Council Tax referendum is variable by age. Just 30% of 18-24 year olds agree that they would take part in such a vote, but among those aged 55 to 64 this proportion rises to 67% and among those aged 65 and over it peaks at 74%. The data also shows a greater likelihood of homeowners (74%), degree-educated individuals (66%) and AB (social grade) residents (69%) taking part in any such referendum.

Readers can interrogate the data for themselves using the drop-down menu in the chart below

Residents were also asked to what extent they agree or disagree with the statement “I understand the scale of cuts that my Council still has to make to their budget over the next few years.”  Responses suggest a degree of uncertainty among the public as only four in ten (41%) residents agree they have this understanding, while three in ten (30%) neither agree nor disagree and just 15% disagree. A further 13% did not know. Only in the North West region does agreement exceed half of residents (55%).

Readers can interrogate the data for themselves using the drop-down menu in the chart below


Furthermore, only 55% of residents overall agree that they are aware that their Council has had to make significant savings over the past few years.

Steve Handley Research Director commenting on these results said:  “As austerity for local authorities continues, the balancing act between politically sensitive annual Council Tax rises and the ability to meet public expectations on service delivery becomes ever more precarious.  These results do suggest that there would be willingness among the public to have a more direct input into the difficult choices that Councils face, albeit with this willingness skewed towards particular segments of the population. However, the question remains whether Councils will be willing to take the political risk and incur the associated expense of a referendum without any certainty that greater rises in Council Tax may gain public support. Indeed, the data on the levels of understanding the public have on Council budget challenges now and over the last few years does nothing to dispel this uncertainty.”

* This question was launched prior to the adjustments to the social care precept that were announced in December.

A full breakdown of these results can be found here.

Fieldwork dates and methodology can be found here.

For more information about this poll, please contact Steve Handley: or 0121 333 6006.

For a more detailed breakdown of results from our polling series, please get in touch by email or phone.


0121 333 6006

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