Warwickshire Police refused to back down last night after ministers demanded it scrap plans for an inflation-busting increase in council tax.
The Government promised to "step in to help protect council tax payers" after Warwickshire Police Authority announced plans to increase the precept, which is added to council tax bills to pay for policing, by 13 per cent.
But the authority hit back, claiming it was committed to spending the money on "safeguarding the people of Warwickshire".
Local Government Minister John Healey yesterday threatened to cap seven police authorities from across the country after they all threatened to introduce council tax increases above the govern-ment's recommended limit of five per cent.
Representatives will now be summoned to meet ministers, and offered the opportunity to justify the planned tax hikes. Mr Healey said the Government could cap the police authorities, forcing local councils to issue new bills.
Alternatively, it could allow them to impose the increase, but cap them next year.
Speaking in the House of Commons, he said the tough approach was needed in order to keep council tax bills low.
Mr Healey told MPs: "I know that many households are finding their finances under pressure, particularly those like pensioners who have fixed incomes.
"So, with some authorities setting double-digit increases, it is right that we should step in to help protect council tax payers."
Police authorities should not need to ask for so much from council tax payers, he said.
"Over the past ten years we've seen a massive increase in police officer numbers, an extra 14,000 since 1997. We've also more than doubled investment in policing - by an extra £3.6 billion over the same period."
The Government could still decide to allow the tax hikes to go ahead if it was convinced they were necessary, he warned.
"I am not today announcing a cap on the council tax of these authorities. I am confirming the start of a process that could lead to this. I am announcing the start of a process, not its conclusion, and during the coming weeks we will listen carefully to the representations all authorities make to us."
Warwickshire Police Authority plans to increase the police element of next year's council tax by 12.87 per cent, a total increase of £18.78 over the year for a Band D home.
Police Authority Chair Phil Blundell said: "We are disappointed by today's announcement, and over the coming weeks we shall be seeking to demonstrate to the Government that the budget we set is prudent and not profligate.
"We have made a number of what we considered to be critical investments in new services over the last two years which we have funded from our reserves. These investments have resulted in a significant improvement in performance over the last year, such that Warwickshire is one of, if not the fastest improving police force.
"We remain confident that, once we present our case to Government, they will recognise that these investments in services have been essential to safeguarding the people of Warwickshire, and should not be undone."
Labour is pushing low council tax bills as a key theme in its campaign for the local elections in May.
Eleven successive years of above inflation grant increases from Government - and a continued threat of action against excessive increases - have led to the lowest increase in council tax for 14 years, and the second lowest ever, ministers said.
Figures for 2008/09 published yesterday showed that the average Band D increase in England would be four per cent. But an analysis by the Labour Party showed that the average increase in Labour-controlled authorities was 3.5 per cent, while in Conservative authorities it was 4.6 per cent.