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Council Tax

Volume 592: debated on Monday 2 February 2015

Under the previous Administration, household budgets were severely squeezed as council tax more than doubled. By contrast, this Government have worked to freeze council tax. Across England, bills have fallen by 11% in real terms since 2010 thanks to our freeze.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he reassure the House that he will do everything he can to help councils keep taxes low, and will he confirm that he will reject Labour’s call for a tax on family homes in England that would fill Scotland’s coffers?

I am very happy to confirm that we have no plans to introduce a family homes tax. The principal problem with the proposal is that, were it to be introduced, the amount raised from those in the top band would be inadequate, so people living in an ordinary home would wake up the day after the election and find themselves in a mansion.

Will the Secretary of State congratulate Hammersmith and Fulham council on cutting council tax while at the same time abolishing home care charges, cutting the price of meals on wheels by a third and employing more neighbourhood police officers? Does that not make it his favourite council—perhaps even the apple of his eye?

I am pleased that the new administration in Hammersmith and Fulham is building on the fine work of the previous Conservative administration, which did more than just freeze council tax; it cut it by 3% each year, from appalling record levels. The new Labour administration has been able to take full advantage of those efficiencies.

Will the Secretary of State congratulate Ribble Valley council, which has frozen its council tax for the past five years without reducing the level of services? If Ribble Valley council can do it, anybody can. The only thing missing in some councils is the political will.

I congratulate Ribble Valley council, which is clearly the apple of my eye. I know it to be very efficient. Income levels in the Ribble valley are better because local councillors are dedicated to keeping council tax down.

Council tax rates and council tax bands are closely linked. I try not to believe everything I read in the newspapers, but a few years ago The Daily Telegraph reported:

“Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, who oversees local government, has also opposed any move to change council tax bands. He has ordered officials to destroy data collected by previous governments that could allow a widespread rebanding of properties.”

Is that so? If not, what data are available?

There was an attempt by the previous Administration to operate a spy system whereby people would be taxed if they had a good view, or if they did not have a good view; if they were close to a bus station, or if they were further away. Frankly, I do not think that it is right for councils to go into people’s homes to measure their bathrooms and look at their views. I regard that as a fundamental intrusion into the British way of life.