LEADING opposition councillors have launched a fierce broadside at planned hikes of the Kirklees council tax.
Conservative group leader Clr Robert Light slammed the proposed 5.9% increase announced by the Liberal Democrats yesterday.
The rise follows numerous inflation-busting jumps in the tax over the past decade.
Since 1994, council tax bills have risen relentlessly in Kirklees. In that year, the levies rocketed by 13.5% under a Labour council which saw average payments go up £68.
In 1995, 1996 and 1997, average bills increased by £12, £32 and £40 respectively.
Then, in 1998, voters saw a rise of 5.6% - or £45.
The following three years witnessed further increases of between three and 4.6 per cent, with a further tariff over that period of £103.
In 2002, a 6.2% rise was imposed, giving bills of an additional £46.
The trend continued last year with bills again rising, this time by 8.2%.
"The Liberal Democrats have made local people pay year on year increases in council tax," said Clr Light. "They have never once tried to peg rises around the inflation rate."
He called the rise a `huge disappointment', adding that the Liberal Democrats had presided over increases of 26% over the past four years, while inflation during the same period had been well under 10%.
He said the banded tax hit those least able to pay.
"How are our pensioners going to cope with the latest six per cent rise? Their income is linked to inflation which has been under 10% for the last four years. How do the Liberal Democrats live with a 26% rise over that same period?"
Labour group leader Clr Mehboob Khan said: "In the past three years council tax has risen by more than 20% yet services have not improved. The cost is going up, so where is the money going?
"We are pleased, however, that the Lib Dems have listened to our suggestion for increasing the number of Police Community Support Officers as a way of tackling street crime".
Tory Group deputy leader Clr Ken Sims also weighed into the fight: "I have to ask whether the Liberal Democrats will ever do anything about the spiralling Council Tax hikes - because they seem incapable of halting the trend."
He said Kirklees residents paid more than Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield.
Council leader Clr Kath Pinnock said Government financial support did not give Kirklees a fair deal compared with neighbouring councils.
But she said council tax increases over the last three years had been the lowest of the five major councils in West Yorkshire.