Voters should be allowed to judge if council hall tax increases are justified

Darlington and Stockton Times: Darlington town hall Darlington town hall

TOWN halls should be free to push through any council tax increase, MPs say – and be judged by voters on “election day”.

The current system, requiring a referendum to be won on any proposed hike of two per cent or more, should be scrapped, a Commons committee has concluded.

And areas with ‘combined authorities’ – which include Durham – should be allowed to introduce higher charges for the most expensive homes.

The recommendations, by MPs of all parties, would represent the most dramatic new freedoms over local taxes for almost 30 years, since ‘capping’ was first introduced.

And they would prevent a repeat of this year’s clash between many of the region’s councils and the Government over their planned increases.

Mr Pickles tried to lower the threshold for a referendum to a rise of just 1.5 per cent, but was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

The move was an attempt to block the likes of Durham and North Yorkshire, which had both proposed hikes of 1.99 per cent to avoid further, damaging spending cuts.

Now the Commons communities select committee has said the Government must “learn to have confidence in local authorities”, if promises of devolution are to become a reality.

Its report concludes: “All local authorities should be trusted with responsibility for setting the council tax rate in their areas.

“There is no hard and fast rule that they will automatically use this flexibility to increase their council tax rates, but, if they do, they should be free to do so and then test local people’s appetite for it - as they do for a range of decisions - on local election polling day.”

The report also criticises the fact that council tax rates are based on 1991 property valuations, warning the system will “collapse”, without regular revaluations.

And it attacks the unfairness of people in the highest-banded properties paying “no more than three times the tax of those in the lowest”.

The solution is to give authorities – starting with combined authorities – “the power to introduce new council tax bands at the top end of the scale and to split existing ones”.

The report concludes: “Doing so might go some way to increasing fairness in the distribution of the tax burden locally.”

Gradually, all local authorities should be given power over business rates, stamp duty, and other smaller taxes and charges, the committee says.

Clive Betts, its Labour chairman, said: "If the citizens of New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo can be trusted with tax-raising powers, why not the people of London, Greater Manchester or the North East?

"Local areas know best how to stimulate their economies. With a wider range of revenue streams at their disposal, they would be able to invest in infrastructure and projects that mattered locally - without having to rely on or wait for handouts from central government.”

Comments (8)

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5:20am Wed 9 Jul 14

BMD says...

Thank God for.Eric.Pickles
Thank God for.Eric.Pickles BMD
  • Score: 1

7:51am Wed 9 Jul 14

oliviaden6 says...

Bill and His Buddies would have a field day they would screw us all and more NO NO NO to that idea!
Bill and His Buddies would have a field day they would screw us all and more NO NO NO to that idea! oliviaden6
  • Score: 19

8:01am Wed 9 Jul 14

Trada says...

Let's just make pay rises simple. Everyone gets the same. Whether bin man or mayor, if you work for and get paid by the council, the pay rate is x% this year and that's what you all get. Why should the better paid get a higher percentage?
Let's just make pay rises simple. Everyone gets the same. Whether bin man or mayor, if you work for and get paid by the council, the pay rate is x% this year and that's what you all get. Why should the better paid get a higher percentage? Trada
  • Score: 4

11:42am Wed 9 Jul 14

JJ2000 says...

"If the citizens of New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo can be trusted with tax-raising powers, why not the people of London, Greater Manchester or the North East?"

Because the UK is a society in which the 98% of the populace is used to benefit the top 2%, rather than using the top 2% to benefit society.
(with the exception of some honest and sensible business people- because they do exist)

DBC has a history of implementing their own plans regardless of the concerns, beliefs or visions of other people. Therefore little faith can be granted that DBC would increase or decrease Council Tax for the benefit of the people of the town and the businesses within it.
As a note, Council Tax is not accepted in Europe as a legal taxation and, although you will find that the UK authorities try to keep this quiet, the information is available to peruse at your leisure. At the end of the day it is against all rights to force people to pay to live, but where can you live without having to be forced to pay for it?

No authority should be allowed unchallenged autonomy.
And that is exactly what a fair democratic system needs. Once we stop challenging we lose the right to complain.
"If the citizens of New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo can be trusted with tax-raising powers, why not the people of London, Greater Manchester or the North East?" Because the UK is a society in which the 98% of the populace is used to benefit the top 2%, rather than using the top 2% to benefit society. (with the exception of some honest and sensible business people- because they do exist) DBC has a history of implementing their own plans regardless of the concerns, beliefs or visions of other people. Therefore little faith can be granted that DBC would increase or decrease Council Tax for the benefit of the people of the town and the businesses within it. As a note, Council Tax is not accepted in Europe as a legal taxation and, although you will find that the UK authorities try to keep this quiet, the information is available to peruse at your leisure. At the end of the day it is against all rights to force people to pay to live, but where can you live without having to be forced to pay for it? No authority should be allowed unchallenged autonomy. And that is exactly what a fair democratic system needs. Once we stop challenging we lose the right to complain. JJ2000
  • Score: 8

1:09pm Wed 9 Jul 14

behonest says...

"Clive Betts, its Labour chairman, said.."
This just had to be another Labour-led, tax-raising measure.

"There is no hard and fast rule that they will automatically use this flexibility to increase their council tax rates, but, if they do, they should be free to do so". It's almost certain that increasing rates is exactly what Labour councils like Darlington will do. Council tax doubled under the last Labour government, and Darlington Labour is still increasing council tax now by the maximum amount permitted each year.

"the unfairness of people in the highest-banded properties paying “no more than three times the tax of those in the lowest”." Do those living in higher-banded properties earn 3 times as much? Maybe, but probably not. Do they receive 3 times as much in council services? Certainly not, they probably receive less. But this barmy bunch think an even higher level of wealth tax is 'fair'? Crazy.

"If the citizens of New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo can be trusted with tax-raising powers.." Misleading spin. It's councils that will have this power, not 'citizens'. The idea that councils are accountable to their 'citizens' is also misleading. People cast their vote on many issues, not just one. And the reality is that Labour councils will take a view as to how their vote will be impacted by raising the tax on higher-banded properties, and if the numbers are such that they will still get elected by those in lower-banded properties, then they will just raise the tax and there's nothing those affected can do about it.

Surely the fairest, most democratic way is for parties to be required to spell out to voters in advance of a local election exactly what it's council tax proposals are, and then be legally required to stick to them if they are elected. Not just be left free to increase taxes willy-nilly whenever they want, with the slight chance they may be held accountable for it once every 4 or 5 years.
"Clive Betts, its Labour chairman, said.." This just had to be another Labour-led, tax-raising measure. "There is no hard and fast rule that they will automatically use this flexibility to increase their council tax rates, but, if they do, they should be free to do so". It's almost certain that increasing rates is exactly what Labour councils like Darlington will do. Council tax doubled under the last Labour government, and Darlington Labour is still increasing council tax now by the maximum amount permitted each year. "the unfairness of people in the highest-banded properties paying “no more than three times the tax of those in the lowest”." Do those living in higher-banded properties earn 3 times as much? Maybe, but probably not. Do they receive 3 times as much in council services? Certainly not, they probably receive less. But this barmy bunch think an even higher level of wealth tax is 'fair'? Crazy. "If the citizens of New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo can be trusted with tax-raising powers.." Misleading spin. It's councils that will have this power, not 'citizens'. The idea that councils are accountable to their 'citizens' is also misleading. People cast their vote on many issues, not just one. And the reality is that Labour councils will take a view as to how their vote will be impacted by raising the tax on higher-banded properties, and if the numbers are such that they will still get elected by those in lower-banded properties, then they will just raise the tax and there's nothing those affected can do about it. Surely the fairest, most democratic way is for parties to be required to spell out to voters in advance of a local election exactly what it's council tax proposals are, and then be legally required to stick to them if they are elected. Not just be left free to increase taxes willy-nilly whenever they want, with the slight chance they may be held accountable for it once every 4 or 5 years. behonest
  • Score: 11

7:03pm Wed 9 Jul 14

Spy Boy says...

Trada wrote:
Let's just make pay rises simple. Everyone gets the same. Whether bin man or mayor, if you work for and get paid by the council, the pay rate is x% this year and that's what you all get. Why should the better paid get a higher percentage?
Yes. Let's make sure that they get pound for pound. Everyone pays the same for a gallon of petrol and a loaf of bread, so let us ensure that the rises are not in percentages, but in actual pounds. If execs get a rise, then give the bin men the exact same rise.
[quote][p][bold]Trada[/bold] wrote: Let's just make pay rises simple. Everyone gets the same. Whether bin man or mayor, if you work for and get paid by the council, the pay rate is x% this year and that's what you all get. Why should the better paid get a higher percentage?[/p][/quote]Yes. Let's make sure that they get pound for pound. Everyone pays the same for a gallon of petrol and a loaf of bread, so let us ensure that the rises are not in percentages, but in actual pounds. If execs get a rise, then give the bin men the exact same rise. Spy Boy
  • Score: 2

12:09pm Thu 10 Jul 14

DarloXman says...

Spy Boy wrote:
Trada wrote:
Let's just make pay rises simple. Everyone gets the same. Whether bin man or mayor, if you work for and get paid by the council, the pay rate is x% this year and that's what you all get. Why should the better paid get a higher percentage?
Yes. Let's make sure that they get pound for pound. Everyone pays the same for a gallon of petrol and a loaf of bread, so let us ensure that the rises are not in percentages, but in actual pounds. If execs get a rise, then give the bin men the exact same rise.
Sorry but can't agree. I would not increase the salary of Ms Burns and her executive team by a penny - infact that is the level I would be looking at for salary reductions. The lowest paid staff should receive a fair rise.
[quote][p][bold]Spy Boy[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Trada[/bold] wrote: Let's just make pay rises simple. Everyone gets the same. Whether bin man or mayor, if you work for and get paid by the council, the pay rate is x% this year and that's what you all get. Why should the better paid get a higher percentage?[/p][/quote]Yes. Let's make sure that they get pound for pound. Everyone pays the same for a gallon of petrol and a loaf of bread, so let us ensure that the rises are not in percentages, but in actual pounds. If execs get a rise, then give the bin men the exact same rise.[/p][/quote]Sorry but can't agree. I would not increase the salary of Ms Burns and her executive team by a penny - infact that is the level I would be looking at for salary reductions. The lowest paid staff should receive a fair rise. DarloXman
  • Score: 3

5:51pm Fri 11 Jul 14

JetMorgan says...

Did your Readers know that ALL Councils have the Power and Authority to SET the Rate that they pay themselves wrt Mileage ? They pay "themselves" approx 50p PER MILE !!!! WHY shouldn't the Council Tax Payer have some say in THIS ??? IF the rate was 50% of what it is at the moment, then there would be an ANNUAL SAVING of Approx £500,000 EVERY YEAR. That amount of money would enable a LOT of Essential Services running as Normal. ASK your local Council "WHY shouldn't THEY face the Cut Backs, and make Sacrifices as THEY expect others to do ??? Double Standards ? ASK THEM !!!
Did your Readers know that ALL Councils have the Power and Authority to SET the Rate that they pay themselves wrt Mileage ? They pay "themselves" approx 50p PER MILE !!!! WHY shouldn't the Council Tax Payer have some say in THIS ??? IF the rate was 50% of what it is at the moment, then there would be an ANNUAL SAVING of Approx £500,000 EVERY YEAR. That amount of money would enable a LOT of Essential Services running as Normal. ASK your local Council "WHY shouldn't THEY face the Cut Backs, and make Sacrifices as THEY expect others to do ??? Double Standards ? ASK THEM !!! JetMorgan
  • Score: 4
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