Council tax is a regressive tax - it's time to do something

By Jo Miller | 11 January 2018

As all of the organisations concerned with local delivery of vital public services – the LGA, SOLACE, CIPFA, ADASS, ADCS, ACC, DCN, SIGOMA etc, it is time for a concerted, collective campaign on future funding for local services.

It is not enough to rely on repatriation of business rates – itself an outdated property tax which fails to reflect the modern dot.com. gig economy era.  council tax too, if it is to survive, must be made fit for purpose.

That we are employing people to translate property values back to 1991 – over a quarter of a century ago – is beyond belief.

The amount of money that council tax raises is directly proportionate to the yield of band D properties. So those areas with, historically the highest preponderance of band A properties and lowest preponderance of band D will raise the least council tax. Compare and contrast Ealing and Doncaster, two similar sized Councils. Ealing had 122,983 chargeable properties, which equals 130,084 band D properties. Doncaster, with a similar number of chargeable properties (121,932) has an equivalent of only 93,797 properties because 87% of properties are below the average band D property.

So, we have removed RSG, and are instead relying on an outdated property tax (business rates, where SME’s face a huge comparative burden in contrast to corporate multi-nationals), and regressive council tax. The decks are stacked against those with the highest preponderance of low yield properties. When one looks at what 1% of council tax per head of population yields between councils, as The MJ analysis shows, the gap is stark.  Little or no attempt is made to recognise need, or indeed the ability of people to pay taxes.

This is not a redistribution argument, so local government in its various different forms does not need to argue with itself, allowing Government to divide and conquer.

We are talking here about the funding of basic provision of services in all of our communities. It cannot be right that the funding of such basic services is left entirely to what can be raised locally on a random basis. If you have historically low council tax, and lower value properties, life is particularly tough.

There is no long-term plan, no solution in sight, the 2020 cliff edge gets closer every day, and those stacked decks stack more every day. Isn’t it time to do something?

Jo Miller is president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and chief executive of Doncaster MBC

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