Monday, September 29, 2008

Great News on Council Tax

There have been some great announcements from the Conservatives over the last couple of days - perhaps the most headline grabbing is a Council Tax freeze for two years. If Councils can keep tax rises down to 2.5%, if the Conservatives win the next election they will fund a further cut to keep Council tax frozen for at least two years. The Conservatives have been working on this pledge for some time, involving Conservative Council leaders, with help from the Institute of Fiscal Studies and a large accountancy firm, so it is properly costed. The central funding will come from cutting advertising and consultancy spending, both of which have rocketed under Labour, and give very poor value in many cases for taxpayers funds. For local Councils, the decade of state interference and 'government by target' will be rolled back, giving Councils much better scope for controlling Council tax.

I was at a briefing meeting for Conservative Councillors earlier today with the shadow ministers responsible for all areas of local government. It sounds like there is a real commitment to giving power back to local people, and there will be more exciting announcements over the next days and weeks. The next general election must be held by June 2010 - it can't come soon enough.


Christine Melsom said...

I was pleased to hear that at last the Conservatives are addressing the Council Tax Problem, and my word, it is a problem. A two year freeze must be welcomed, but I would like to be assured that during that two years they would spend some time looking for a much better system altogether. It is now even more unaffordable and the hardship is now being felt by a much larger section of the community. The Conservatives brought in this wretched tax, this Government has exploited it, and it would be very good to see any future Government getting rid of it.

Chris Howell said...

I'm sure there will be changes made during the two years to tackle the two key problems.
1)Local Councils spend too much - I'm sure Conservatives will be significantly reducing the burdens placed on local Councils by Central Government diktat.
2) Most of the money spent locally is not from Council tax, it is either raised or reallocated nationally. As a result, very efficient Councils like Cambs County end up with big tax rises because they don't get enough government grant to meet local needs. Business rates and Council House rents are charged locally and then shipped off to other parts of the Country. This is grossly unjust and has got to change.

Other ways of collecting money locally may well be looked at, but despite a lot of thought no-one has come up with a significantly better alternative. Lib Dems like the idea of a local income tax because they will never be in power to implement it - it is obvious from anyone that remembers poll tax that taxing property is better than taxing people, because property can't hide itself quite as easily when you try to tax it, and suggesting you can move significant amounts of tax burden onto a small minority of people by checking peoples last few pay slips before deciding how much to charge for bin collection is naive in the extreme.