Council tax is a local charge for the use of local services. The current banding system reflects that larger homes make slightly greater use of local services, but intentionally, it is not a poll tax nor a wealth tax.
For the past decade, the Government has ensured that local taxpayers are able to veto excessive council tax increases in a local referendum. In 2023-24, the Government has put in place a new one-off funding guarantee to ensure that all local authorities will see a minimum three per cent increase in their Core Spending Power before taking any local decisions on council tax levels. More widely, I realise that many people may be facing financial worries, which is why every council is required to have a council tax support scheme in place. The Government is providing local authorities with their share of a £100 million Council Tax Support Fund to allow them to deliver additional support to households in need.
Councils are allowed to remove discounts once given to empty homes, and councils can impose a premium charge on long-term empty home because of the harm to local amenity caused by empty homes. New powers in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill would allow councils to double the standard council tax rate on any home left empty for longer than a year.
I would note under the proposals by this lobbying group, many hard-working families and pensioners would see soaring bills, both within local authorities and across the country. In particular:
- The existing single person discount would be abolished, hitting widows and widowers the hardest. Such a house price tax fails to take into account that single person homes make reduced use of local services.
- Annual revaluations would mean home improvements would be taxed, punishing people for doing up their home. Under the council tax system, material improvements are only taken into account when the home is sold.
- There would be no limit on the increase in taxes. When house prices rise, it would be very easy for a government or council to use that increase to hike the overall tax take by stealth, as bills would be based on house prices.
I also note that the Government has stated it does not support such a policy and has criticised proposals for such house price taxes in a Parliamentary debate.
I hope this explains why such an idea is not one I feel able to support.
Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate on this issue due to prior Parliamentary commitments.