AS you read this, the county council is going into its annual ritual of setting the Council Tax for next year. As I am sure you have heard, Cambridgeshire got a really bad settlement from the Government: a 2.1 per cent increase in our grant. To put that into perspective, the Retail Price Index has increased by four per cent over the past year and it is the RPI figure that is used to calculate the increase in the state pension, state benefits and index-linked gilts. By a masterly piece of hype, spin, marketing (call it what you will) the Government has convinced most people that inflation sits at around two per cent. The Consumer Prices Index, which is the figure they keep quoting, is indeed at 2.1 per cent, but the RPI is virtually double that. To cope with this settlement and the threat of capping if we exceed a five per cent increase in the Council Tax, we are planning to increase it by exactly five per cent and trim our forward plans accordingly. At five per cent, I think you will see us in the top five or so councils for the percentage precept rise. However, before you get too excited about that, think about our starting point. This year our Council Tax is the third lowest of any county - I would guess that the five per cent increase will move us up a couple of places from there. Norfolk, Suffolk and Bedfordshire are all planning lower percentage increases of between 3.7 and 3.9 per cent. However, in each of those cases, our Council Tax AFTER a five per cent rise will be less than theirs was BEFORE their rises. Merely as an aside, Norfolk's Government grant went up by 9.3 per cent and Suffolk's by 7.3 per cent.