COUNCIL tax bills across East Lancashire could rise by more than six per cent next April, town hall chiefs warned today.

County Hall has revealed that bills in most parts of Lancashire will increase by more than double the rate of inflation - despite welcoming the Government's annual spending allocation.

Lancashire County Council has been told it can spend £831million, an increase of of £36million on last year.

Finance chairman Chris Cheetham said: "This is roughly what we expected and we have already started working on our budgets.

"It is still very early days but I think I can say with confidence that the maximum the increase will be is 6.5 per cent. The trick over the next couple of weeks is to get it lower than that."

The county council was left reeling by the Government's settlement last year and had to increase council tax bills by more than eight per cent.

Blackburn with Darwen Council has been told it can spend £138million, but the final budget is likely to be higher. The difference will be made up by an increase in council tax and finance bosses are working out what the rise will be. Last year the council was told it could spend £132.4million and was forced to increase council tax by five per cent and make cuts of £4.6 million.

Bosses at Burnley Council are delighted with the Government settlement which will allow it to spend £11million.

The external Government cash that Burnley will get to help keep council tax bills down has been provisionally set at £8.7million - up by an inflation-busting 5.5 per cent on last year.

Finance chairman Peter Kenyon said: "It is twice the increase we had been led to expect and will make the budget process significantly easier than last year."

Other East Lancashire councils - Pendle, Rossendale, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley - are still working out the significance of the settlement in their areas.

Local Government minister Hilary Armstrong made the annual spending announcement which will have a direct impact on how high council tax bills will be next April.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.