A controversial review of council funding has had its publication delayed after the intervention of Gordon Brown, it has been claimed.
The review by Sir Michael Lyons, Professor of Public Policy at Birmingham University, is expected to recommend higher council taxes but will not now be published at Christmas as planned.
Caroline Spelman (Con Meriden), the Shadow Secretary of State for Local Government, insisted it was "essential" that the Government published the report, adding: "Any suggestion of a delay leaves me very suspicious."
Sir Michael, former chief executive of Birmingham City Council, is looking at changes to the way council tax works, which could include an end to capping and charges for services such as waste collection. Ministers deny the review will lead to a higher council taxes, but any reforms will create winners and losers.
Sir Michael is considering changing the banding system, so that the most expensive properties are taxed at a higher rate while less valuable properties may be charged less. There will also be a revaluation of properties which will also lead to some households paying more.
The review is expected to recommend that councils be allowed greater freedom over how they raise money, including control over business rates.
But it has emerged publication of the report is to be delayed while the Chancellor considers its contents. Sir Michael will present it to the Treasury in December as expected, but it will not be published immediately.
Mr Brown, who could take over as Prime Minister in the first half of next year, is said to be concerned that one of his first acts as premier could be to introduce reforms to local taxes, one of the most sensitive political topics.
Ministers are also concerned about the impact any controversial announcements could have on the local government elections in May.
Sir Michael's inquiry began in July 2004, and has already been delayed once.
Mrs Spelman: "It is essential that the Government publishes this report. We have all been left hanging.
"The problem is that we are in an interregnum period where Gordon Brown takes over from Tony Blair, and it means that every important decision is being delayed."
Lord Bruce-Lockhart, chairman of the Local Government Association, said: "Sir Michael has told the LGA he would submit this before Christmas and we expected it to be published immediately."
A spokesman for the LGA said: "The Government has been very twitchy about this because they remember what happened to Margaret Thatcher when she introduced her own big reform, with the poll tax."
A Treasury spokesman insisted: "There is no delay. We have not yet received the report so it's too early to talk about publishing it."
A spokeswoman for Sir Michael Lyons said: "We are still on track to deliver the report to Ministers in December, as we always planned.
"We are in discussions about the publication date and nothing has yet been set."
Sir Michael's report is expected to allow councils to introduce top-up levies for rubbish collection and social care, and to support mechanisms for authorities to propose extra taxes to pay for extra police and teachers.
The Government has denied claims it is considering a flat fee based on one per cent of the value of a home, a system already introduced in Northern Ireland.
In the West Midlands this would mean an average charge of #1,584. In Solihull, the charge would be #2,224.
The website for Sir Michael's inquiry is at www.lyonsinquiry.org.uk.