Monday, March 10, 2008

A Moan About Council Tax

I got my Council Tax bill today. £2253.70, if you please - an increase of 4% on last year. Another sign of household bills outstripping the official inflation rate. When Labour came to power, the same bill would have been half that size. That's ten years of Labour for you. Ok, so I live in a larger than average house and earn more than average too, but I'm struggling to think what I get for my Council Tax beyond a fortnightly rubbish collection and a Police Service which thinks seven hours to come out after a burglary is quite acceptable. But the one thing which I really struggle with is the precept for Kent Fire Authority, which has risen by 3.5%. In the leaflet accompanying the bill we are told that the total number of fires attended has gone down from 62 per 10,000 people to 44.6. Accidental fires have gone down from 12.9 to 12.4. Deliberate fires have reduced from 41.3 per 10,000 to 27.6. And the number of road accidents has gone down from 8.3 to 7.5. Now any reasonable person might think that the cost of running the service would have been cut too, assuming a broadly similar population. Not a bit of it.

If you live in a Band D house your bill would be £1,378. This level of local taxation is almost getting to the point when people just won't be able to cope. In the end, all taxation is paid with the consent of the people. We remember all too well what happened in 1990 when the people withdrew that consent. Politicians from all parties would do well to remember that. Council Tax reform is all too easily dumped in the "too difficult" tray. That is not a tenable long term position. If you doubt me, look on the back of your own Council Tax Bill. It shows that your Council Tax is calculated on the basis of the value of your house in 1991. Nineteen Ninety One was seventeen years ago! According to their figures, my house was worth between £160,000 and £320,000 then. I won't tell you what it is worth now, but you can guess. No wonder Labour shied away from a revaluation just before the last election.

OK, so I have outlined the problem, what's the solution? I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Mine is called a Local Sales Tax. What's yours?

110 comments:

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Central Government must get off the back of local government, giving local councils less money, fewer obligations, and greater discretion in the management of their own affairs.

David Boothroyd said...

I think you've misunderstood what would happen in a revaluation. The absolute value of each home would be assessed and recorded based on a particular date, and then the bands set based on the relative values of that date so as to make sure that the overall effect is neutral. If the area you live in has risen in average property values compared with the English national average, then you might go up a band.

The Conservatives were all opposed to a revaluation and kicked up a political fuss about it, demanding that it be cancelled - so it's a point against your own side. The problems with Scotland's rates revaluation of 1984 was a key motivator behind the Poll Tax; Mrs Thatcher also cancelled the expected early 1980s English rate revaluation, which meant that 1974 values continued to be used up to the abolition of the rates.

Unfortunately a local sales tax would have problems with European legislation, and also local authorities are not big enough to operate proper local sales taxes. A regional sales tax might be more likely.

What do you get for your council tax? The biggest item of spending is social services. You try privatizing that!

Graham said...

"I'm struggling to think what I get for my Council Tax beyond a fortnightly rubbish collection and a Police Service which thinks seven hours to come out after a burglary"

Well let's see - road maintenance, planning, parks & leisure centres, Schools, Libraries, trading standards, Licensing......etc


I agree Council tax is a mess. One of the principal problems being the way a small increase in authority budgets becomes a disproportionate increase in Council Tax.

I'd go for a smaller central government contribution with a combination of Local Income Tax (offset by a reduction in the % paid to central government), Local Sales tax (offset by a reduction in VAT and/or Excise duties) and local authorities setting and keeping the proceeds of non-domestic rates.

Iain Dale said...

David, your last two paras make my point for me!

Could you expand on the point about European legislation?

Tim said...

District councils are too small to make local income tax work, because it would be very easy for people to "border hop" - especially in places like London.

Economic liberals should favour allowing councils to raise money as they wish - just as happens in the US. Some could use property taxes, some sales taxes, some income taxes etc etc.

My house was only built in 1999 - and then the council had to work out what it would have been worth in 1991...

Mostly Ordinary said...

Poll tax.

Never saw the problem with it.

wrinkled weasel said...

Sorry Iain but I am laughing my socks off and rubbing my hands with glee.

The SNP has frozen, yes, frozen council tax, and will eventually get rid of it altogether. Up here we don't pay for Lithuanian Lesbians (either bi or uni peds)but we are spending extra on free eye care, prescriptions (coming soon), free dental check-ups and free school dinners for all kids.

With all our lovely Barnet formula extra money we are whooping it up with things that matter, and managing the budget and our police force has been voted into the top twenty gay friendly organisations.

All that and deep fried mars bars.

You should come and visit. England is being rogered, and not just by the Scottish rugby team.

hehehehehe!

Tony Kennick said...

I think council tax is one of the greatest distractions central government has ever devised. For my local authority it only covers 13% of gross expenditure, the rest coming from central government.
A local tax to replace it isn't the way forward, a central tax scheme dolled out per capita with a suitable method of ensuring the local voter still sets spending priority sounds like a better way forward.

rob's uncle said...

You will have received but may have binned an explanation of what the money is spent on. It mostly goes on wages to pay for education and social services. There is really no mystery about this if you are willing to do some digging before you do your blogging, like a journalist would do.

David Boothroyd said...

The local sales tax has a fascinating history. Mrs Thatcher was said to be broadly sympathetic to the idea before being converted to the Poll Tax. At the moment it's being supported by UKIP and the Adam Smith Institute and UNISON Scotland likes it.

No-one's tested the legal situation exactly so it is uncertain. The key is that the sales tax we already have, VAT, is linked to EU legislation which says that it can't have different rates within the same state. Hypothetically, introducing a new sales tax which did vary locally on top of VAT could be tried, but this begins to look a bit silly.

My suspicion is that if opinion in the UK turned to a local sales tax, then some way would be found to get it accepted by the European Union. However, it would still face insuperable problems with being truly local, as people would move over council boundaries to get to the cheaper sales tax rates.

dozzy said...

I am a single person with two homes. For my main home, I pay 75% of the full rate, but for my second home I pay 90%. If I actually lived in my second home full time, I would only pay 75%. So there is no pretence that the payments are linked to the service you receive: the tax system is being used to punish people with two homes. (When this system was instituted a few years ago I received an insulting letter from the local council, saying that the extra I would be paying would be spent on social housing; I wonder whether or not it actually has been.) The total council tax I pay is now £3,500 p.a., which is more than 10% of my net annual salary. One bin liner lasts me about 2 weeks. That means I am paying £134.62 for each bag that I put out!

skip said...

yeah, the scottish government finance minister (john swinney) has met with all 32 councils in scotland in order to get a council tax freeze.

more money has been freed up for the councils and they have been given freedom on how to allocate their own spending instead of ringfencing. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (cosla), a bit of an old labour organisation, has backed the changes. With the exception of 1 council all 32 councils (of different compositions) have voted to freeze council tax for the next year. The council (stirling) that failed to vote for the tax freeze actually voted to CUT their council tax.

Salmond deservedly gets credit... but John Swinney has worked wonders at finance. He's got the council tax freeze he hoped for and despite being a monirity government he got his budget through the Scots parliament. Polling shows Scots trust him more with their money than the chancellor. Rightly so.

Niles said...

Fire authorities... now have a duty to actively work to prevent fires, so that's pretty pricey. If yours is like mine the amount of fires they put out is actually dwarfed by the number of people they cut out of crashed cars.

Chris Paul said...

Naive.

James Barlow said...

I suspect a large component of the "Fire Precept" is paying for pensions. Here in Bristol, 28 pence in every pound paid to the fire service is used to pay defined benefits pensions.

JMB

typhoo said...

We don't get council tax bills in NI, we have rates bills, and supposedly water bills will be introduced, although at the last election here, most parties said they would not introduce them or would delay them. Water bills will be based on rates, but NO council tax!!!

We've never had council tax bills here.

Yak40 said...

Interesting numbers.

For comparison, here in the US, in a large 'burb, my total real estate related taxes are approx GBP 1100/yr. This includes city services(streets, local gov't), schools, county hospital (the free ones Guardian readers pretend don't exist here), firemen, cops etc. (And the cops come quickly if you call)

Tax disc on my car is GBP 30/yr, MOT equiv GBP 25/yr. We don't pay a tax to watch TV.

House taxable values are estimated annually and you can appeal if you disagree, and often you can win too.

Anyway, just somewhere else's way of doing it, does seem UK pretty high wrt taxation in general now.

Adrian Yalland said...

The fire service don't just put out fires - they have to 'rescue' people as well these days. In one division this regularly means helping a 30 stone man out of bed so that his home help/nurse can dress the bed sores on his arse.

All courtesy of the council tax payer!

But you do get a lot more besides for your money Iain - like paying housing benefit to 30 stone people who need the fire AND RESCUE service to help get them out of bed so that his home help/nurse can dress the bed sores on his arse..

Oh, and then there is funding lots of essential 'local government staff' like my local 'Diversity Awareness officer' and my personal favourate, the 'Community Cohesion Officer'

Then there is promoting all those favourate festivities, and taking out adverts in the local paper wishing the local Asian community a happy Ramadam/Diwali, and putting up christmas decorations which don't actually mention christmas!

And don't forget all the worthy local government initiatives your tax also pays for - like cutting down underage pregnancy by teaching those too young to legally have sex how to use a condom!

Social workers?

But, they are cutting back on waste near here - by closing libraries! Apparently only old people who don't have the interwebby thing use it, and we don't care about them any more.

I'd scrap this tax anyway (along with half of the local government staff it funds) - and pay a local income tax.

Incidentally, how do they value homes which were not built during the last valuation? Since my house is only a few years old, I reckon I shouldn't be paying anything anyway!

Adrian Yalland said...

Graham, I'd also go for leaving the European Union, and saving the bazzillions of pounds we send to Brussels every year!

I reckon we can waste our own money on our barmy schemes much more efficiently than the EU can!

Adrian Yalland said...

Wrinkled Weasel - the Scots only beat us at Murrayfield when it is raining. And that is only because the Scots are just slightly more used to the wet than we are!

As for the Barnet Formulae - I want my money back please as I'd like my children to have a free university education and I am fed up with paying for my mother's nursing home fees. If this goes on much longer, I will move her to Scotland and you can have her!

Let's see how the SNP like that!

Adrian Yalland said...

Skip, John Sweeny is only successful because we English bale out his spending policy, whilst not being able to afford to do the same south of the border.

No wonder he is popular - in Scotland!

tapestry said...

Fire Service are paying the money into inflation-proof pensions for life agreed by Gordon Brown to keep the unions quiet pre-2005 General Election - the Warwick? agreement.

Don't forget, you pay your Council Tax with after tax money. For most people, you can double the effective amount you are paying.

Britain is not a competitive place to live. There's an easy solution. Go to the airport.

Then sell your house. In the rest of the world you are rich. Only in the UK are you poor - because in the UK you are all victims of theft by government, known as kleptocracy.

Anyone with any money is simply mad to still be living there.

Anonymous said...

A propos, what about capping stamp duty at £150k? As it stands it's a tax on being in the south, but in fact it should be living in the north that gets taxed, because the north is a tax-sucking Soviet state.

verity said...

"a fortnightly rubbish collection". Unbelievable. Here we get three pick-ups a week - two for household rubbish and one for recyclables. For this dependable service, we pay £3 a month. And it's nothing to do with the city. The city puts it out to bid and chooses the providers and then steps out of the picture.

The rubbish companies themselves come round every two months for payment. It's nothing to do with tax. It's a service we pay a private company for. And they are responsive to complaints.

I always agreed with the innate justice of the poll tax. It was beaten by fascist protesters who also saw the justice in it, and didn't like it.

Anonymous said...

"Poll tax.

Never saw the problem with it."

Me neither!

Iain, got a bit of good news with the council tax freeze in Scotland, the bad news is that I was already paying roughly the figure you have to this year so the pips were squeezing loudly already. In the neighbouring constituency it would have been less, but we are now not facing the savage cutbacks they are because of the freeze. There are a lot of unhappy voters complaining about this headline hitting cuts.

verity said...

Dozzy's post was interesting and leads me to the conclusion that, actually, there should be no "social housing" because it is theft.

There should be emergency shelters that provide warmth and food for a few nights, because we all, at some time in our lives, depend on the kindness of strangers.

But long-term housing is up to the individual. Sorry, but I think all those slappers in council flats with two or three children by men whose names they don't remember should go out and hook to pay for their billet. Or sell drugs to make the rent.

Why should a taxpayer be charged with their care, unless they've been declared mentally incompetent? Their situation is their choice.

Anonymous said...

A great way would be to insure that only those that pay taxes to the local council have an automatic right to vote in local government elections.

We could call it The Poll Tax.

Or more accurately, The every ones a winner except robbing socialists Tax.

Mark Clarke said...

My solution is to tell you to move to Wandsworth. Band D here is £681, which is half what you are paying. And the Audit Commission say that the services are the best in the country.

Tizzy said...

Iain, that's about the same as I pay for my rates - for a 4-bed detached in the North East! That should tell you where I live...

I do get my bins emptied every week and, er, um, nope, can't think of anything else.

But good news around the corner - next year we will be merged into the new Durham Unitary so bound to be cheaper!

John M Ward said...

The overall situation has been a case of ever more burdens (including bureaucratic ones such as huge increases in audit and inspection fees) being placed on local gov't by national gov't without full funding.

Therefore Council Tax has had to increase significantly every year, which is why the doubling over ten years has been a national occurrence. Even our Band D in Medway is about to go over the £1,000 mark (see HERE for the amount for each Band).

Thus we can eliminate (as a category) the Local Authorities themselves as the problem (unless all of them have consistently behaved irresponsibly every year since 1998) and the Council Tax methodology itself -- though it could do with some updating in places.

I don't mind if the system is changed, but it would be cosmetic and a diversion from the root cause of the problem, which would remain.

I am a strong believer in having ALL taxes come locally, and nothing whatsoever going to central government. After all, with most powers now devolved to Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff, along with those about to be ceded to Brussels, there will be no need for a full national government anyway, and we can save a fortune by scrapping the vast Westminster machine.

All governance should be community-driven, so that only those affected take the decisions (rather than "outsiders") apart from a very, very few truly national and international issues such as immigration, which must be consistent throughout the nation. For these few matters some (very much smaller than at present!) national governmental outfit could be effectively sub-contracted by a consortium of Local Authorities, putting it in its rightful place of serving the people instead of ruling over them.

I'm sure there would still be complications and issues with this, just as there are at present, but they could be overcome wih a little thought. Overall, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified (and with no referendum in Britain) then I would wish to see Parliament scrapped as it would no longer serve any real purpose.

This move alone would solve all the Council Tax issues that we currently have, including the two "fiddles" that (in our case here in Medway) take £28 million off the government grant calculated as needed to do our work.

Anonymous said...

Douglas Carswell MP has advocated the local sales tax to replcae VAT.

Would this cause problems with the EU?

Anonymous said...

The other point about council tax most people don't notice is that it comes out of income already taxed - ie if you are a higher rate tax payer Iain you have to earn 4K gross salary to pay it.

As such it is harder on people who are on a reasonable income (40K or so) married with one partner staying at home with the kids.

I agree local income tax or sales tax would be better.

Anonymous said...

Well if Essex is anything to go by you may be getting a few Post Offices for your money.You were lucky with the police, when we were last burgled,we were moaned at for dialling 999 by the female in the call centre and told to go a make a nice cup of tea. Needless to say the teapot was stone cold when the police arrived three days later.My expartner pays more in council tax than the neighbouring identical bungalow despite there being more income earners in it, They 'annexed' the place, giving an elderly parent a couple of rooms.She pays no council tax, and the other part is rated as a semi, so in a lower band.So in that house there are four full time wage earners and a pensioner paying less than a single person in council tax. Nothing wrong with a poll tax,methinks.

Anonymous said...

The deeper problem here is that what we call local government is really a mixture of truly local government (a small part dealing with local issues locally) and a branch office of national goverment (applying national policies locally). Ask anyone working in local government how much time they spend dealing with stuff from the national government as opposed to their local electorate.

Because the expenditure on these two functions is completely mixed together, a large part of local government spending has to come from national taxation.

The answer is to put a clear line betweeen what is a local service, voted for by the local electorate and what is local implentation of national policy, where no local decisions can have any effect. Payment of the first should come from local taxation and the latter from national taxation. The level of local tax would then me more reasonable and how it was collected would matter far less.

Julian Gal

Steven Harris said...

I think that you'll find a huge chunk of your council tax bill (I've heard anywhere up to 40% here in Manchester) is paying for the pensions of council workers and other local authority workers.

Councils are too big and utterly inefficient and thus massively expensive. Last week I arranged for the council to come and remove an old sofa from my driveway. For two men to come and remove the sofa no fewer than five (!) separate organisations were involved. No wonder it's so expensive!

ken from glos said...

Easy, get rid of Final Salary pension schemes, thats the cause of most of the rise.

People ar begining to realise we have a two tier pension system in this country and the jobsworths in Local Authorities have the best.

asquith said...

Local income tax. With significant autonomy for local authorities in raising or lowering taxes and spending their money accordingly. For example, they should be free to build council housing, and Thatcher's centralisation of power should be reversed.

This would actually save significant amounts of money, because the govenrment would no longer be obliged to pay housing benefit etc to private landlords who are currently housing the poor. And if people who work are in social housing, they can pay a rent.

Phil Taylor said...

Iain,

A few words about the fire service. The London Fire Brigade has over the last few years tried to be more proactive and to spend much more of its resources on fire prevention - in an ideal world there would be no fires as these disfigure too many lives and lead to massive economic disruption.

I am sure they are not perfect but that bit of your argument was a bit weak.

The big internal issue in the fire service is to persuade "firefighters" that every time they rush into a burning building that is a failure and that it may well be more productive to teach children about fire alarms so that they nag their parents into installing them.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a Council Tax Officer (not for long I am leaving on Friday)

Scrap the whole idea about local taxation.

Every Council in Britain employs scores (sometimes hundreds) of people to collect Council Tax.

Make 100% of the money that Councils spend come from Central Government instead of local taxation.

Councils will have far more money to spend as they no longer will have multi million pound Council Tax departments to run.

OK so it will remove some of the local accountability - but most money that councils spend is 'rinf frnced' ie the Government instructs how and when it can be spent.

tyger said...

A local sales tax?

More touchy-feely conservatism, eh? Well as the poor spend a much higher proportion of their income, another sales tax would screw the lowest common denominator. Again.

No wonder The Thatch was for it!

wildgoose said...

Land Tax.

Tax the (unimproved) value of the land. (You shouldn't penalise people for improving or maintaining their property by putting the tax up on the building).

Local government should receive all the land tax raised in their locality, including that raised from business which currently disappears into a central pot.

If they do a good job then their local area will be attractive, the land prices will rise as will the tax.

Run-down areas will be cheaper, encouraging businesses and people to buy there and thereby automatically helping regenerate the area.

The only money local areas should receive from central government is the payments for education vouchers, (Education is around half the local authority budget). Everything else should be raised (and spent) locally.

Anonymous said...

The allowances paid to elected memebers of local authorities might be worthy of reform?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm its all Labour's fault is it.

The party that cocked up local government time and time again is the party of which you are a proud member!

Peter Walker's Local Government Reorganisation Act, was the worse piece of legislation passed by any government in the last half of the 20th century.

The there was the poll tax, cost billions to implement, billions to scrap and VAT went up to 17.5% to pay for it.

Labour has nothing to boast about, went it comes to local government, the Tories even less.

The reason why the Tories still can't get a decent poll lead over Labour, (only 3% in the latest) is because people remember how useles you were, particularly under that moron Major.

Anonymous said...

dozzy said...
"I am a single person with two homes...... That means I am paying £134.62 for each bag that I put out!"

What a foolish statement. Have you opted out of protection by the police and the fire and rescue services? Don't you use the roads to travel between your two properties? Don't you worry about the hygiene standards of your local restaurants and food stores? I could go on.

Anonymous said...

It is the unspoken part of your council bill, which others have highlighted. The ever increasing cost of public service pensions. That i why the Fire and Police stipend has increased, throughout the country,and the over inflated salaries paid to Chief Executives etc. Now that Councillors are 'on the payroll' you can expect nothing but increases year on year.

The answer?

Military Coup.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

I suspect council tax is quite efficient in its operation, far more so than any poll tax or local income tax could possibly be. It's just too high because they are spending too much money.

The reason they are spending too much money is because people in this country continually ask, 'Why doesn't the government do something about [insert topic]?' and the politicians oblige at the taxpayer's expense.

When did you last hear a government minister say, 'We are completely indifferent to [insert topic] because it's not our problem.'?

Example: Why do we need a Minister for Sport, FFS? If people want to play footie let them get on with it. It's nothing to do with the government. You might as well have a minister for Mah Jong.

Anonymous said...

surely it is because we are finding huge pension pots for the public workers. Not a bad think in itself but when it is being funded by the private citizen who themselves can only rely on the state pension then it takes the michael!!!

Stephen Yeo said...

Pensions (for people in the unfunded schemes such as Teachers, Police and Fire workers, as well as Local Government employees in the funded arrangements) are more than a quarter of a typical council tax bill.

The figures for the long-term cost of the unfunded arrangements are usually published with the Pre-Budget Report in December, but in the rush to clear the decks for the election that never was, last year's figures have yet to be published (see a meaningless Written Answer below). My bet is that these figures will be smuggled out tomorrow under cover of the Budget.

Make sure to pay attention.

Public Expenditure
Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he expects to publish the next Long-Term Public Finance Report. [183717]

Yvette Cooper: The Government publish the Long-term Public Finance Report to provide a comprehensive analysis of long-term socio-economic and demographic developments, and their likely impact on the public finances, based on the most up to date information available.

The population projections provided by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) are central to this analysis. Given that ONS did not publish the new population projections until 23 October 2007, after publication of the 2007 pre-Budget report and comprehensive spending review, the next Long-term Public Finance Report will be published once it has been finalised.

Anonymous said...

typhoo said...
"We don't get council tax bills in NI, we have rates bills...".

What's in a name? Council tax is really the same as the old rates, with notional rateable values assessed more crudely (i.e. in bands).

Anonymous said...

Let me say first of all that the transfer of the tax burden from income tax to council tax is all too characteristic of this government.

However as for your "rant" about fire service precepts - Ian, you need to rethink.

Fires have gone down. Is this because the fire service work on preventing fires - education etc - is actually effective? You do not say. Do you want this work to stop - with the result perhaps that fires increase again?

If you think that fire service costs should be decreasing that means fewer firefighters and fewer vehicles. If your house goes up in flames, or you have a road accident, do you want a longer response time because numbers have gone down?

I am not connecetd with the fire service in any way. But I do think that a better understanding of what they do would be beneficial and it would be helpful if commentators such as yourself spoke from a position of knowledge rather than ignorance.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you've completely missed the point. The problem is how much is being spent, not how to raise that money...

penlan said...

We had revaluation in Wales about 4 years ago .There were far more properties placed in a higher band than a lower.People were not happy.Part of the problem was that the original banding was done in a rush to be able to scrap the Poll Tax.I suspect that if they do it for England,it will not be on a national basis but areas at a time.It really is a vote loser.My house went up two bands -and there were no improvements to speak of.When I appealled I was told that they thought that the band was too low last time.

penlan said...

We had revaluation in Wales about 4 years ago .There were far more properties placed in a higher band than a lower.People were not happy.Part of the problem was that the original banding was done in a rush to be able to scrap the Poll Tax.I suspect that if they do it for England,it will not be on a national basis but areas at a time.It really is a vote loser.My house went up two bands -and there were no improvements to speak of.When I appealled I was told that they thought that the band was too low last time.

Madasafish said...

All this talk about "local problems" with Sales Tax is rubbish.
After all, if a Council spends little and taxes little its business es deserve to do well by attracting consumers with lower Sales Taxes.

And the converse is true.

Oh I forgot. Nu Labour does not like market solutions.

Newmania said...

GRAHAM said -Well let's see - road maintenance, planning, parks & leisure centres, Schools, Libraries, trading standards, Licensing......etc

Despite a 30% increase in Government spending none of thee have improved . Libraries close , roads are never open and most of the rest of it is a waste of time ,schools are so bad people are selling their organs to get their children out of the system .the NHS is the worst offender in my view . Despite some £90 billion thrown at Doctors Ferraris waiting times are actually longer than ten years ago.

The reason the Scots are able to freeze Council tax is because of the largesse shown by the English tax payer and also, by the way , unfunded and recklessly unbalanced budgeting by Salmon with the express intention of starting rows with the UK. This is an awkward spot for newly British Mac Broon who wishes to favour Scotland a client state but not erode the UK illusion which keeps his raj in charge of the English.
The North east does even better though ...I wonder why that is?
David Boothroods typically jejune essay is illustrative of the problem after ten years of Labour highway robbery this sort if statement ...“relative values of that date so as to make sure that the overall effect is neutral “ is utterly implausible . We know that change equals more and we know the truth will be hidden.
I believe that the currency of taxation debate has been so entirely debased by labour that it is almost impossible to have any sort of rational conversation about it .Look at the national celebrations at the IHT when actually death is good time for taxes to fall and encourages all sorts of effect that Conservatives should approve of.

It no longer matters we are now in an attritional trench war in which Brown pays his public sector professional constituency at the expense of those he hates .


It is ironic and revolting that as Labour taxation and benefits Polices have torn the country into warring factions Brown witters on about drawing the nation together.The public sector now swollen to 8 million plus dependents is at a size where the entire notion of democracy is at risk and with emigration at the vertigenous rates it is I laugh bitterly at the suggestion that border hopping is a local tax problem

labrat said...

Whats the solution?

Simple, flat rate tax, 30% of all income straight to central govt at source and pays for everything - no rebates, no allowances, no council tax, no complex systems that cost billions and billions in administration.

5% goes to your local authority for local service provision, leaving 25% for govt to provide other services.

local services put out to tender under best value rules

less admin, less council staff, less cost! more efficient systems get more money to front line service provision.

Now thats the type of bold policy that the Tories would win the next election on!

Chad said...

I like council tax, because it will be an easy way to protest against state funding of political parties.

When it is introduced, deduct the amount the parties take from your council tax (about 50 quid in total), wait for the letters from the council to arrive, delay, write letters, argue then pay up the day before court. You avoid a conviction, and it will cost the government more than they distribute to the parties in state funding, creating a net loss.

Man in a Shed said...

Conservative should promise to reduce council tax to the level it was in 1997 - and, wait for it, increase income tax to match the balance.

Now I know that conventional wisdom says thats electoral suicide, but it should be blames on Brown. Tell people that's how much he really raised taxes and we're being honest about it.

For the last few years my family has had a low income and council tax takes a massive swiped on that income that has *already* been taxed by income tax and NI !

The Lib Dems are of course idiots to propose a local income tax - it would be impossible to administer and would lead to more inner city flight etc. but that doesn't mean that the balance between different forms of taxation is right.

Anonymous said...

Iain,

You think you're hard done to ?

In my part of Warwickshire a Band D House's Council Tax is £1,447.70 - a rise of 4.71% and the charge for the Warwickshire Police Authority this year has risen by a staggering 12.87% !!!!!!!!!

lettersfromatory said...

Direct Democracy has yet to take hold in the Conservative policy arena, but I hope this will be rectified soon.

Evan Price said...

David Boothroyd repeats the myth that the 'overall effect' of a revaluation will be 'neutral' ... tell that to the people of Wales where the revaluation has ended up with more than half the population paying much more than before.

The problem with Council tax as with many other areas of Council expenditure is the combination of unfunded commitments made by irresponsible Government combined with an inadequate funding to meet those commitments ... combine that with inadequate assessments of the people and communities living in a particular area and you have a 'perfect storm'.

McSweeney said...

While I agree council tax is now a substantial bill if you can't think what you get for it beyond a bin collection then you really are a charlie.

Nick said...

Abolish it.

1. You save on collection.
2. Get rid of a few quangos as well.
3. All you need is to replace small percentage of local government spend with income tax.

Then give each council an identical per head allowance.

At the same time state the government will take on pension liabilies that have accrued. However, local authority pensions have to be fully funded with no state guarantee.

Then you let local democracy kick in. Each authority has a fixed sum of money. The richer areas subsisides the poorer areas. Everyone is 'worth the same'.

What then matters, is that the LA gets the best value for money.

This is different from the current situation, where LA worry about extorting the most money.

Unfortunately its a simple system and doesn't employ lots of people, so Brown won't go for it.

Nick

Anonymous said...

Iain, stop whingeing - try being working class for a week, and then see how lucky you are.

"I've got considerably more money than eeoooooouuu."

Scotland are thinking of a local income tax - still think it is a good idea ? W@nker..

JuliaM said...

"The London Fire Brigade has over the last few years tried to be more proactive and to spend much more of its resources on fire prevention - in an ideal world there would be no fires..."

No fires?!? Planning on repealing the Laws of Physics to acheive that, are you..?

And like many others, I never saw what was so wrong about the Poll Tax. It was very fair, unless you were used to living below the radar and not paying anythi...

Oh. Hang on, I think I see now.

Anonymous said...

Newmania said...
"Despite a 30% increase in Government .... roads are never open .....schools are so bad people are selling their organs to get their children out of the system."

A slight exaggeration?

Minesapint said...

For NuLab, high council tax is a key plank of their social engineering agenda – price empty nesters out of their family homes and into "socially diverse" apartment blocks.

Anonymous said...

Locsal taxes based on income, house prices, sales etc. do not work because some areas have a large number of poor people and some areas have a large number of rich people.

Central Government taxation which is then paid out direct to local Governments a on a flat per capita basis to be spent and voted on locally is the only way.

Plain and simple taxation works best.

Anonymous said...

Local taxes based on income, house prices, sales etc. do not work because some areas have a large number of poor people and some areas have a large number of rich people.

Central Government taxation which is then paid out direct to local Governments a on a flat per capita basis to be spent and voted on locally is the only way.

Plain and simple taxation works best.

Unsworth said...

'Revaluation' is - always has been - a euphemism for 'increase'. Otherwise there is no point in the exercise.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the issues that people seem to miss about council tax increases is revealed in the breakdown of where your council tax money is spent.

Councils complain that Labour do not give enough money to cover the increased costs, which is true. And deliberate.

If you look at your council tax breakdown over the last few years you will see one item that has consistently increased far higher than the others:

Housing and Council Tax Benefits awarded

Using my council tax breakdown, this has been increasing between 10 – 15% every year. It also is now 40% of the total budget requirement. All the other services such as highways, environment and community have flatlined.

We are paying for welfare by stealth.

Dave B said...

I don't care what method is used: poll tax, land tax, sales tax, income tax.

But local government should be self-financing, not dependent on money from central government at all.

Douglas Carswell is very persuasive on the importance of local government finance.

machiavelli said...

My solution would be to drastically cut what the state actually does. That way, the minority of people who use these services could buy them from the private sector if they so wished, instead of the majority of us paying for them.
That includes education, though I accept the minority/majority point needs to be reversed. I really don't see why I should pay for some feckless pleb to send their horrible little kid to school - who probably pays no attention anyway!
If they can't pay for them, they shouldn't have them. Condoms aren't that bl**** expensive

Prentiz said...

Iain - the absolute value of your house in 1991 doesn't matter - its the relative value to other houses that determines its banding. As long as other houses have gone up by the same amount of yours, then increasing property prices won't make any difference.

The reason many people oppose revaluation is two fold. In Wales revaluatio resulted in 30% of homes going up a band and only 8% going down. It is a great opporutnity for stealth tax increases. Secondly, the Goverment wants an enourmously intrusive system which would monitor every aspect contributing to the value of your house, from whether you have a nice view to whether you have a patio. More intrusive regulation.

Sadly none of the main parties are really looking seriously at the issues here. We ducked the issue, claiming that the only reason council tax is unpopular is the level. Labour ducked the issue and the Liberal Democrats "local income tax" isn't really fully fleshed out and is primarily a sop to grap votes from pensioners.

We need a local taxation system which allows us to collect most of the funding for local councils locally, which is open to variation by councils and causes competition for low tax. Sadly none of the parties are taking this seriously...

David Boothroyd said...

Evan, the Welsh revaluation was done on a different basis to the English one. Instead of valuing the houses and then setting the bands, the Welsh Assembly Government set the new bands and then valued to place the homes in the appropriate band. Because the bands were not balanced, they ended up with more people in higher bands.

The English one will be on a completely different basis.

Anonymous said...

I have yet to receive my bill but understand that with the exception of the police precept it has been decided to increase the tax by 3.5%. THE POLICE PRECEPT (for Lincolnshire Constabulary) IS DUE TO RISE BY 79%. This is not a joke and from published information it means that a band E householder will pay £288.08 to the local police. I do not know if this is excessive?

Like other commentators, I feel the cost of pensions seems to be the major factor in continual increases. A report in the Sunday Times in January, stated that it cost £2bn to provide pensions to 140,000 police officers. (There are only 165,000 serving officers). The research indicates that some 25-30% of police authorities wages bill goes to fund pensions. I would think that the fire service has similar problems.

Like your area Iain the PR machine continues to tell us how well everyone funded by the taxpayer is doing. Reduction in fires recorded crime etc etc. Staffing has not been reduced and they always need more money from the hard pressed taxpayer.

As I am now retired and on a fixed income, the higher council tax bills, increased costs of food and energy are more noticeable. At the same time, recruitment continues unabated within local government. We have people being trained to speak other languages, PR documents published in a number of languages etc etc. The world has gone mad and the taxpayer is suffering.

I lived in Scotland for a time and when I initially moved there my council tax bill was much greater than what I paid in England for a similar valued property. Water charges were included and these were a wopping £500. Having always had a meter (prohibitive cost in Scotland)I was shocked at the charges for water and council.

I think there must be a better way of holding people accountable for how they spend our money. If we were able to elect Chief Constables, Fire Officers etc then this may go some way to ensure that our money is spent wisely. It seems to me that public funded organisations seem to think there is an ever ending pot of money. Private enterprises have to cut their cloth and be innovative when the going gets tough - why not the public sector?

The poll tax or a local income tax would be fair. However such policies hit the miiddle class and politicians would be fearful of introducing such measures. Perhaps we should all join the taxpayers alliance and name and shame the excesses that we witness and read about.

In despair............

Devil's Kitchen said...

My solution is also a Local Sales Tax (however you might define local), and it is LPUK's solution.

Mind you, there's a bunch of Tories, led by Douglas Carswell (who convinced me of the merits of a LST in a taxi back from 18DS), who have been arguing for such a system for some time now.

DK

Newmania said...

Newmania said...
"Despite a 30% increase in Government .... roads are never open .....schools are so bad people are selling their organs to get their children out of the system."

A slight exaggeration?


Grotesque comic hyperbole however in Brighton where the lottery system is being tested on children its not far off the truth. There has been a massive growth in private school applications often from people who cannot really afford it but have no choice. They will; do anything than have their children bussed to the failing schools they moved to avoid
I asked Iain to draw attention to this ...but sadly he ignored me ( I am unimportant and boring ...lets face it ). The thing that really really frustrates me though is that the entire disaster is being defended BY A CONSERVATIVE COUNCIL who have only just stopped attacking it in line with Conservative Party Policy

What are they playing at? Who are these useless Councillors and how often will Conservatives be held by the insensitive autocratic a dozy Conservative Councils

Anonymous said...

Was it not the Conservatives who introduced Council Tax and was it not the Conservatives who reduced income tax and said that they would transfer the burden on to council tax hence the large increases in the tax. I also thought you lived in Kent and is Kent not controlled by the Conservatives.

dozzy said...

Anonymous at 8.48 a.m: "What a foolish statement. Have you opted out of protection by the police and the fire and rescue services? Don't you use the roads to travel between your two properties? Don't you worry about the hygiene standards of your local restaurants and food stores? I could go on."

You are of course right that I am getting more than a bin bag collection service from my councils. But not much more; and not £3,500 more. I have never directly made use of the police or the fire service, and I have never needed rescuing. The roads are kept up (after a fashion), but I pay for that and more in road tax and petrol duty. Litter is picked up, but I have never dropped any. The streets are lit: I do benefit from that, though my second home is two miles from the nearest street lamp. The parks are maintained, but I am seven miles from my nearest park, and I don't visit it because my garden is a much nicer place to be. All in all, I don't think the services I do receive are worth 10% of my net annual salary.

I am certainly lucky to have a second home, but as I own it legally, and as it also happens to be the house I was born in, I don't feel guilty about it, nor do I think that some less privileged person has a greater right to it than I do.

Anonymous said...

At least in Scotland the SNP Government is TRYING to introduce a fairer way of paying for local services (with the help of the Lib/Dems).
Being met of course with the usual suspects Con., Labour, Daily Mail, CBI moaning about an attack on the middle classes.
Yes you pay 3p extra in Income Tax,but that Council Tax bill doesn't come through your door.
Middle class earners also have blips during their lives (illness, having children,etc) when income goes down, so you pay less for these local services during these times. And when you retire with your meagre pension but would like to stay in the same house, then you definitely pay less for these local services.
LIT may have some flaws but Labour has had 10 years (8 in Scotland) to do something about it, with what result?
By the way I agree with the poster who mentioned the savings in Counci Tax Depts in every Local Authority.

Splashitallover said...

Iain, you get things that you may not need NOW, but you'll like to be there when you do need them - as your commenter earlier says: road maintenance, planning, parks & leisure centres, Schools, Libraries, trading standards, Licensing.

To claim that you don't get anything much for the money is a bit silly.

for instance, even if you never use the libraries or the leisure centres, presumably, you'd support children and the elderly having places to use, like that?

And while you don't use the planning service now, I bet you're glad it exists, so it can regulate the view from your front window.

Praguetory said...

Land value tax

Splashitallover said...

Dozzy, I'm sure you own the house legally, but forgive me if my heart doesn't bleed at your financial woes. You own two houses at a time when a lot of people can't afford one! if you have problems meeting the council tax, then you're living beyond your means, and as the Blessed Margaret would no doubt advise, you should sell one of them. Problem solved!

Anonymous said...

A local sales tax is an idea; although it would need to be at least county wide, rather than district?

Also why not have a land tax; rather than just a household tax?

Anonymous said...

Iain think yourself lucky your police come out in seven hours. Mine local poxy force took 3 days to come out to a break-in. In the mean time I was so fed-up of waiting, that I cleared the mess and arranged a replacement window; I think they had been disturbed as soon as they broke-in.

Anyway three days later when a PCSO turns up I say "no point." So off he goes within 10 minutes a PC, and a Sgt turn-up. They both then proceed to threaten me to be charged with wasting police time and making a false statement.

Iain as for the increase for your local fire - I would guess as with everything in government that the increase is going on pay and bugger all else.

Anonymous said...

Easy - just cut out all the non-jobs and provide the rest with the sort of pensions we mere mortals can expect to receive and pay early-retirement pensions, which seem de rigeur in local government, on the same actuarial basis instead of on the present feather-bedded arrangement, costing hundreds of millions every year at the expense of the council tax payer.

Anonymous said...

Most people here appear to be arguing about various means of collecting the tax, i.e differing means of sharing the misery. This isn't the problem - ever increasing and inflation busting expenditure year on year is!

dozzy said...

Splashitallover, I am not asking for sympathy, and you are quite right that if I have financial problems (which I do not), I can easily sell the second home (thereby incurring a potential capital gains tax bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds, but that's another story). No, my point is simply that the amount paid is out of all proportion to the benefits received, and I am sure that is the case for a lot of people besides myself.

Anonymous said...

If we had kept The Poll Tax we would not be having this debate now.

We also would not have hardly a high spending Labour or Conservative council anywhere in the country. We would not also be currently suffering under a Tax and Spend, 3 term Labour government.

Thatcher gave us all the answer to all our problems, which is one of the two very big reasons why the powers that be got shot of her.

The powers that be do not want us to solve problems in the long term. Because in an almost perfect world there would not be any point in having politicians or the fascist powers that control sponsor and promote them at all.

Our Ruling class elites cause chaos DELIBERATELY. Just to keep themselves rich and in control, while keeping us poor and pointlessly working ourselves to death.

In 18th and 19th century America this used to be called slavery. In 21st century Europe it is now called progress.

ATLAS shrugged, and wished he did not have to spell out in such a patronizing manner, what should be perfectly obvious to ALL so called educated people.

Anonymous said...

Mine is a local income tax!

Deals with the following problem

elderly person living alone - paid high taxes all their life - either working in or outside the home - family raised properly, educated and grown and gone.

Now on a modest income.

Why should they have to move out of the family home just because they can't pay the tax and why should they be penalized when they go shopping for a few small luxuries in their old age?

stuart said...

I live in Westminster, covering Oxford Street and the West End, so a local sales tax is good with me. I'll probably get a big fat cheque from the Council each year.

Anonymous said...

David Boothroyd wrote:

"I think you've misunderstood what would happen in a revaluation. The absolute value of each home would be assessed and recorded based on a particular date, and then the bands set based on the relative values of that date so as to make sure that the overall effect is neutral."

Completely hilarious! Whilst the start of this paragraph makes sense, anyone who's not been living in a cave for the last ten years (Hi Osama) will know that this govt does not work in this way. Any changes to tax results in us paying MORE.

You sound quite bright so I'm surprised you haven't noticed this!

Zorro.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

The point made in other blogs is that many local and central government employees effectively pay no tax. Every penny deducted from their pay packets under PAYE goes to fund their final salary pensions. Thus the money for everything else has to come from taxpayers in the private sector.

Anonymous said...

Chris Paul wrote "Naive".

Ha from a socialist that's hilarious!

I think Iain knows what the CT goes on, the council do kindly send out a little colour pamphlet explaining this (I wonder how much that costs) - but when the only service you actually use is having your bins emptied twice a month, you do start to wonder where the f all this money goes, and why things like social services and education have to be paid from this completely unfair tax.

For god's sake the Poll tax was fairer.


Zorro

Bye-Bye CONservatives said...

Please, please, please persuade Gideon Bullingdon to adopt a local sales tax as policy. PLEASE ofer to bring back the poll tax. PLEEEEEEASE!

labrat said...

Local sales tax!

what about mail order? pay in area purchased or resident.

what about people who live near the border - surely everyone is just going to go into the cross border town where things are 2% cheaper, destroying businesses in any town/village near the border with a higher price, and robing their local council of revenues - what then? local authority vehicle checkpoints going through your shopping saying you're only allowed to bring back three litres of milk and handing out £80 fixed penalty notices?

Unworkable and the administration/collection costs re going to be through the roof!

4x4 the people said...

it seems a lot to have to pay to keep the local hoodies in iPods but if it means they arent mugging me for mine then I guess it's worth it. It's not just the cost of a new one mind but it took the nanny ages to download my 80s CD collection and Cordelia says she is threatening to head back to Latvia.

On a serious note - "stealth taxes" seems to have disappeared from the Tory PMQs lexicon in the last year. Any idea why?

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Tony Kennick said:

"I think council tax is one of the greatest distractions central government has ever devised"

The three great evils, nationalism, organised lying and distractions.

I await a nice surprise from the London Borough of Barnet any day now.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Nobody has mentioned the POLL TAX.

Why?

Anonymous said...

FYI - Local government pensions are being reformed. Benefits are lower now and there are no automatic lump sums.

Cutting the pensions of ordinary bobbies and firemen who have worked in dangerous and difficult situations is not a good way to save money.

Cut education advisors and councillor expenses.

I live in a Tory Authority with a rise of 4.9% - they have taken extra, just in case there is another flood! Meanwhile services fall in quality.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Taxation is alwasys an emotive subject, and I guess no rational argument is likely to change heartfelt personal attitudes... However, all the debate so far has been like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, endlessly entertaining, but sod all use.

We now have a very complex taxation system built up by years of compromise and changes in policy. The first decision is whether to try and nurse it along for another few years or to have a total rethink.

We have to decide what we believe a government should pay for - the basic minimum. Everything else is a matter of choice.

We then have to decide where those services should be managed.

Yes, we probably have to pay for public servant pensions because we have already had the benefits of their cheaper pay in the past.

Yes, we probably have to pay for education, at least up to age 18, because, even if we have no kids ourselves, we would like todays students to become nurses, TV repairmen, soldiers, and telephone sanitisers when we are older.

Do we need many of the Quangos - probably not. Is the Arts Council neccessary or merely nice to have? That is a debate we are not having.

Do we need outreach coordinators and 5 a day liaison people? I doubt it. Do we need Libraries - I would say yes, but I've no idea what the majority would say. Do we need Council run Leisure facilities - arguably this could be done by private enterprise.

Town planning, running education, social service, armed forces, police force (not service!) almost certainly should be provided by government at national or local level - some debate required.

It's about time the whole issue of the government remit and funding should be completely overhauled. It would take the lifetime of a government to review and implement, but I would certainly support and vote for such a plan.

Anonymous said...

There is no need for a local sales tax. Another huge admin function. Put it on VAT. If that makes VAT 25% or 30% so be it; it's fairer than council tax or putting it on income tax

Anonymous said...

Solution: Don't vote Conservative!!!

Local councils decide council tax rates, Conservatives run Tunbridge Wells Borough Council and Kent County Council therefore Conservatives are responsible for putting up YOUR council tax Iain.

Mrs Smallprint said...

Just great - sales tax, yet another item for the unpaid small businesses to collect, along with the associated new software, forms and all the other rubbish we already have to deal with.

No thanks.

wrinkled weasel said...

Adrian Yalland. Your mother and everyone else's.

Sooner or later we will be fighting off economic migrants on the borders.

Ask somebody in Berwick if they want the benefits of Scottish public spending.

I have been up here for five years and am considering seeking asylum and Scottish naturalisation. The only bugger is it is damp and nobody can cook and every week is National Fat Week - A&Es are full of obese types with friction burns on their thighs and the deep fried onion pizza is replacing mars bars as a national dish.

carol42 said...

My council tax has risen by 110% since 1997, I see no noticable improvements in services in fact I now the bins are only emptied every two weeks. I saw nothing wrong wih the poll tax it is better that everyone pays for services however little. The problem was twofold - I lived in Scotland when it started - it was never expected that coulcils would set it so high, deliberate I am sure and the rebate levels were set too low. In addition those who had never paid before were simply not prepared to pay their share if they lived with their parents. I know of many families where adult children just wouldn't pay despite parental pressure. For us personally it was little different from the rates at the time, just a few pounds but now I am widowed it would be a great help as I have quite a large house which I want to go to my son. We worked hard for this and I have no intention of selling and buying something smaller. I think the best solution would be for central government to take over education and pensions, they dictate what can happen anyway, if necessary adding a little to income tax. Let the local authorities go back to what they used to be, deciding local priorities, reducing their size and the useless non jobs which have proliferated and the vast CEO salaries once beyond imagining for local government. Things simply can't go on the way the have for the last 10 years, people just can't manage when Council Tax has become another mortgage but one that rises every year and is never paid off.

John Trenchard said...

"March 11, 2008 10:10 AM"

thats what they do in ireland.
there is no council tax. instead grants are made by central government. its liable to abuse as influential ministers slightly increase the "grants" to their local areas, but the tax system that results is easy to understand.

and more importantly - you are taxed on income. not on this crazy valuation of property tax we have over here.

here's a tip to anyone reaching retirement over here - retire to ireland.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"a PC, and a Sgt turn-up. They both then proceed to threaten me to be charged with wasting police time and making a false statement."

The only surprising thing about this is that you contacted the police in the first place. How blatant does police corruption, laziness and uselessness have to be before tories cease praising them?

Anonymous said...

I for one am absolutely sick of paying this tax, and for what, so I cannot afford to rent a decent flat, but I pay for other people to live in a much better home because they get housing benefit.I pay for a police and fire service I do not use, and yes I would happily pay if I had to use them,tourism, which is of no benefit to me and a whole host of other obscure things local government waste my money on.I have a huge amount of other outgoings and cannot afford this tax, but god help me if I miss a payment of this rip off charge, straight into court and maybe prison.
we should all get together and say no more to this.