TAXPAYERS in Wirral face a hike three times the rate of inflation after a feared £7m budget shortfall has become a reality.
The council tax base rate has been calculated following last week's local government funding settlement announcement and bills are now set to rise by 7pc.
The figure will rise further when police and fire authority precepts are added on top.
Wirral Tories have now called for a task force to be set up to find savings in the authority's £84m administration bill to help cut the increase. The proposal will be put before the cabinet next week when it discusses the government settlement.
Jeff Green, Conservative group leader, said: "It is a huge amount by all accounts to spend on administration. It works out to £594 per household and if cuts can be made there could be dramatic savings in the council tax bills.
"What we are proposing is a task force to be brought in to find out exactly how the money is being spent and what savings can be made.
"People in Wirral have been hit hard by council tax rises over the last few years and we believe any rise should not be higher than the rate of inflation."
Since 1994, Wirral council tax has risen by 62pc, compared to inflation of just 26pc.
The government announced £266m funding for Wirral, one of the lowest settlements in the country and up just 3.2pc on last year. Tax payers will be footing the bill.
Coun Stuart Kelly, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: "We had one of the worst local government settlements in the country - let alone Merseyside - and we are paying the price.
"Now we know what that settle-ment is, we can work out the shortfall we need and at the moment will mean at least an extra 7pc on council tax bills.
Council leader Steve Foulkes has ordered a round of savings worth almost £5m.
The recycling fund is to be cut by £1m and a further £1m has been raised from the Wirral Schools' Private Finance Initiative.
Wirral is also facing steep rises with a much-needed computer system upgrade which could cost between £2m or £4m each year until 2010.
If savings can be made the rise may be reduced before it is finally settled in March.
Coun Foulkes said: "I'm fed up with the Tories making spurious claims about the administration bill. The money is spent on staff who are working at the frontline of council services. We are a balanced council but they don't put forward sensible proposals.
"Every manager of every department has been asked to look at how the money is being spent and if there are any areas where savings can be made.
"What I'm doing is working on identifying savings to keep council tax as low as possible.
"There are still a number of grants to come through that may affect the final increase."