Councils have refused to rule out council tax hikes in response to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Guardian approached Harlow Council and Epping Forest District Council to enquire whether council taxes and business rates will be raised as a result of the global health crisis.

Neither council would be drawn into confirming or denying the possibility of tax hikes.

Harlow Council officials say they will review its financial strategy in "6 - 9 months".

The current Medium Term Financial Strategy limits annual council tax increases at 1.5 per cent.

However, council officials have stated “changes will be required” but it is “too early to say what those change will be.”

A spokesperson for the council said: “The council has recovery work already planned and underway and one area of this work will be to look at the impacts on the local economy and businesses and to consider options that may be available to help revitalise the economy post lockdown and as the country recovers from the current crisis.

“The council will also have to be mindful of any impacts the crisis may have on the level of future funding the government makes available to it and the possibility that this may reduce more significantly than had previously been anticipated given the financial pressures created for the government and the country as a whole.”

Epping Forest District officials insisted the council was in a “strong financial position” but admitted difficulty in assessing the long-term impact of Covid-19.

A spokesperson for the council said: “At the moment It is too early to say exactly what decisions may be taken, but Epping Forest District Council is in a strong financial position.

“We were able to freeze council tax in the current financial year and over the coming months we’ll be looking at proposals and initiatives to support the recovery of the local economy.”

The TaxPayers’ Alliance has warned against tax hikes forming the basis of economic recovering from the pandemic.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “There must be a relentless focus on economic growth, and that should mean a strategic plan for tax cuts and simplification."

"The government has a tough job on its hands in repairing the public finances, but increasing a 50-year high tax burden should not be a part of the plan.

"The government's help so far has been a lifeline for millions of families and thousands of small businesses, but taxpayers must also be protected in the recovery.”

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