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Council Tax Increases

Volume 658: debated on Monday 8 April 2019

Local authorities decide council tax levels and are responsible for managing resources to deliver services. The Government set referendum thresholds to protect voters from excessive increases in council taxes without their authorisation. Overall, this year’s settlement gives local authorities access to £46.4 billion.

When will this ministerial team wake up to the fact that we do not all live in Maidenhead or the New Forest? The fact is that the central Government grant has been cut and cut again, and we cannot keep on getting more for less. Only this morning, Shabir Pandor, the leader of Kirklees Council, said, “Why doesn’t this Government see local government as an ally, not the enemy?”

I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of the situation. I absolutely see local government as an ally, which is why I have championed its work and what it delivers for local people. I should hope that he notes that Kirklees Council will have access to £302 million in 2019-20. It is also worth highlighting that average spending power per dwelling for the 10% most deprived authorities in 2019-20 will be around 22% more than for the least deprived. It is not right to say that this Government focus on one area over another. We want local government to perform for communities across the country.

I declare an interest as a member of Kettering Borough Council. Despite cuts to central Government funding, Kettering council has now frozen its share of council tax all the way through to April 2020—it has been frozen since 2010—while enhancing the delivery of local public services. Does that not show that we do not need to increase council tax to improve the delivery of local public services?

I commend Kettering Borough Council for the work it is doing, and indeed Conservative councils up and down this country. It is worth highlighting that, on average, Labour councils in England impose bigger council tax increases than Conservative councils, reminding us that you always end up paying more under Labour.

Council tax has increased by a whopping 18% over the past five years, hitting families on lower incomes the hardest, taking 8% of their income compared with just 2% for higher earners. As people are asked to pay more and more for less and less, they will quite rightly look at the likes of Google with its £1.5 billion tax gap—which, by the way, is roughly the equivalent of what the current council tax increase will generate. Whose side are this Government on—hard-working families or the very, very few?

The Government are on the side of hard-working families. I remind the hon. Gentleman that under the last Labour Government band D council tax more than doubled. It is also worth highlighting that council tax in England is down 6% in real terms since the last Labour Government.

Conservative-controlled West Oxfordshire District Council has one of the lowest council tax rates in the country and some of the best services due to its innovative cost-saving measures. Does that not show that Conservative councils save money on back-office costs and provide better services for local residents?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend’s message. I am sure that others outside this place will have heard it, too, as we look towards local council elections, with Conservative councils delivering more for their residents and better value for money.