Thursday, 9 April 2009

Council tax - the 10 councils who charge the most

Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat - I neither know nor care. These councils are charging too much for local services.

13 comments:

Mark Wadsworth said...

That depends how you define 'local services'.

If you include the local hospital, local schools, libraries, police, fire brigade, land registration, planning controls, refuse collection, street lighting etc. then that is fantastic value, even if you're in a Band H house in a Tory/Lib Dem area.

Of course, somebody will then say "My income tax pays for all that". Wrong. Somebody else's income tax pays for all that.

Jock Coats said...

You probably should care, however, about which party is in charge, because it reveals an awful lot about the state of independence of local government in the UK.

A decade or so ago these would all have been Labour councils - now the Lib Dems have two of them I think and the rest are Tory. And it's all to do with how much tinkering goes on over the amounts doled out from Westminster vary depending on your level of political favour with the powers that be in cenral government.

If they all had to raise all, or at least most, of what they actually need to spend (CT amounts to about 1/4 of local authority income) it may look more expensive (especially if national taxes were not reduced to compensate for that shift) but it would at least be more honest in comparing different authorities.

Same goes for council housing (though I realize it's not a component of the Council Tax side of local authorities' budgets). Here in Oxford the government takes over a third of council house rents in one of the most expensive housing areas in the country with a massive shortfall in affordable housing, to give to Hull or Preston or somewhere so they can demolish some of theirs!

Real accountability of local authorities to their electorates can only be achieved byt setting them freer from central government and more importantly letting them innovate as to how they raise their funds as they do much more in the US.

thelocalgovernmentofficer said...

Well, yes and no, Jock. What Alice seems to be using is the mathematical average paid per dwelling - which interestingly ConservativeHome recently described as "a thoroughly dishonest measure".

What it is largely telling you is where has the biggest and nicest average houses, since they will be in the highest bands and pay the most in a property tax. Since they are the wealthiest, they are also the areas that will get the least central funding so have the most to make up in local taxes.

You're right though, blaming the individual council is by and large just playing the Government's game.

On the other hand if you believe there should be a property tax, this is a relative bargain for those homeowners. Richmond's Council Tax is about 0.4% of the £450,000 average house price in the Borough. Compare that to Birmingham's average house price of £150,000 - I bet the average council tax bill in Birmingham is more than £600.

I have graphs of this sort of thing, but only for county councils.

Jock Coats said...

Oh yes. I do recall reading about that effect too recently. Thanks!

Mark Wadsworth said...

@ TLGO "Richmond's Council Tax is about 0.4% of the £450,000 average house price in the Borough. Compare that to Birmingham's average house price of £150,000 - I bet the average council tax bill in Birmingham is more than £600."

Exactly!

Council tax is hugely regressive, because it's 50% Poll Tax element. TV licence is 100% Poll Tax. OTOH, Inheritance Tax is semi-progressive (it hits the people in the upper middle hardest) and Stamp Duty Land Tax is hyper-progressive, i.e. a pure jealousy surcharge.

So why not chuck it all in the bin and have a flat property tax of 1% of property values, like in Northern Ireland* (or even better, flat Location Value Tax, but hey)?

* yes, the flat rate in NI is <1%, but they still have SDLT, IHT and so on.

electro-kevin said...

MW

What does VAT (on everything we buy), petrol tax, alcohol, fags go towards ?

electro-kevin said...

Localgovernmentofficer - My council tax is £1300 per year. Three bed semi, benefit claimants either side.

thelocalgovernmentofficer said...

Electro-kevin, exactly! I bet you'd happily pay £400 extra a year to live in one of the "average" houses in the Chilterns or Richmond-on-Thames.

the ginger bearded one said...

LGO: great post.

Alice: Not ofen you're beaten, but if you have a white flag to hand I think you need to start waving it.

regards

Mick

Dennis said...

@Mark Wadsworth

You say "If you include the local hospital, local schools, libraries, police, fire brigade, land registration, planning controls, refuse collection, street lighting etc. then that is fantastic value, even if you're in a Band H house in a Tory/Lib Dem area."

1. I have no local hospital -- the nearest is 26 miles away, and it is a charnel house.

2. The local schools I say nothing about. However, I have not noticed that educational standards generally are particularly stellar; nor do I detect signs of improvement. Quite the opposite.

3. The libraries are crap, the stock falling to bits, and have become little more than propaganda centres for the government. Oh, and they charge for a wide range of services, like lending DVDs and CDs.

4. The police. Ask Ian Tomlinson's family if they're good value. I wouldn't contact them at all in the event of a crime, except that I'd need a reference for my insurance claim.

5. The fire brigade. Don't make me laugh. Retire at 45 with a "bad back" and spend the next 40 years taking the piss -- that's the career path there.

6. Land registration. Would the Land Registry be the same setup whose controls are so lax that criminals are able to get title to and then sell other people's houses without their knowledge?

7. Planning controls. Look at any British city and you will see how valuable these are -- to the people on the planning committee and their friends in the world of property development. Talk about naive.

8. Refuse collection. I get my bin emptied once a fortnight. There is now a plague of rats in this district.

9. Street lighting. Yes, the local streets are lit. Not mine, of course.

Council tax, like income tax, is extorted with the threat of imprisonment. I value the "services" I get at about £100 p.a., tops. However I must pay these parasites the rest or they'll put me in clink -- and because I'm not a photogenic pensioner, no mysterious benefactor (authorized by No. 10) will pay my fine and get me out.

electro-kevin said...

LGO

I'd rather be sticking with my £1300 and be getting what I've paid for, actually.

It is becoming increasingly expensive to avoid living among chavs. And yet we are consistently told we have been going through a decade of low inflation.

Chavs are going up in price, that's for sure.

dearieme said...

Our Council Tax is excruciating and our library has been closed for a couple of years. Bastards!

Anonymous said...

Living in Hackney with a £1,600 p.a. council tax bill and its great.
Brand new library 5 mins walk away, 2 hospitals within 2 miles, open air heated swimming pool in the park at the end of the road, always see a 'bobby on the beat', great transport links so I don't need a car. (majority of my work involves travel to Leeds, far quicker by train than car)

If people choose to live out in the sticks then they have to face facts, they have chosen to live 26 miles from a hospital and other services. Plain daft if your getting on in years.

If you want all these services on your doorstep you have to pay for it! Get real, everything costs money!