Former Tory defence secretary says Treasury has forced up council tax

The country has suffered as a result of the shift in power from local to central government, said former defence secretary Michael Heseltine yesterday.

Speaking at a select committee at the House of Commons, Heseltine said: “Central and local government has changed over 40 years to the detriment of the country.”

He added that council tax has increased as a result of a “squeeze” by the Treasury, which in turn has had a negative impact on the financial resources of local government.

“This has done an enormous disservice to the balance of power in the country and we now have a deeply centralised society,” he added.

Professor Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics, said many local authorities oppose the housing targets set by central government. He added that the grant system imposed on local authorities is of “no benefit” to the local community and that greater incentivisation is required to encourage local government to support housing targets.

Travers said: “The Local Government Association needs to act as a battering ram on central government. It needs to be tougher. There is a powerful argument for an array of minor freedoms for local government.”