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Council Tax Freeze

Volume 583: debated on Monday 30 June 2014

11. What recent assessment he has made of the effect on local authorities of the freeze on council tax. (904514)

Council tax freeze funding has thus far helped cut council tax in real terms by 11% since 2010. Forest of Dean is one of the excellent authorities; it is now in its fourth year of a council tax freeze. The Government have made £5.2 billion available to support councils that freeze and have built the funding into the spending review baseline.

The situation is even better than the Minister set out: all three Conservative-led councils in my area have frozen council tax, in contrast to the Independent police and crime commissioner, who put council tax up without making a real effort at savings. I urge the Minister to continue with the programme because freezing council tax makes a real difference to the budgets of families and helps make ends meet in difficult times. Please will he continue that policy?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. What the Government have been able to do with the council tax freeze has shown a real saving for families across the country in keeping council tax down. That is in the context of the fact that council tax roughly doubled under the Labour Government.

Far from there being a freeze, the Government have hit more than 2 million of the poorest households with large council tax increases. In the light of the recent evidence from Citizens Advice, which shows that council tax arrears have become the biggest debt problem reported to it, will the Minister commit to carrying out a full review of the real impact of the policy before the end of the Parliament?

I am not surprised at the hon. Gentleman’s question. As I said, his party presided over the near doubling of council tax until 2010. I see why it would resist this Government’s work to freeze council tax and help hard-working families. Local authorities could go even further and follow some good councils that have reduced council tax by cracking down on not just fraud and error but uncollected council tax. Uncollected council tax in Liverpool, for example, is costing every council tax paying household there £500 a year.

Will the Minister congratulate Councillor Steven North, leader of East Northamptonshire council, not only on freezing council tax yet again but on achieving a £50 million investment called Rushden Lakes, which is entirely in my constituency and is creating 2,000 jobs?

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the councillor. I thank him for giving us the chance to highlight the really good work that councils and councillors can do when they focus on delivering good, efficient, value-for-money front-line services for their residents.