Standing up for taxpayers: Cllr Spencer Drury welcomes cancellation of Labour’s council tax revaluation

Homes to be protected from wave of council tax hikes and ‘Big Brother’ inspections  Leader of Greenwich Conservatives, Cllr Spencer Drury has welcomed the new Government’s announcement that it is cancelling Labour’s plans for a council tax revaluation in England, saving families in Greenwich up to £287 a year in local tax hikes. An independent review will also, for the first time, seek to rein in intrusive snooping by council tax inspectors, defending civil liberties.  
  • Tax hikes on homes cancelled: No council tax revaluation will take in place in England in this Parliament. The Labour Party was actively planning to use a revaluation to increase tax bills on England’s homes, with computer technology to target ‘nice neighbourhoods’, patios, gardens and scenic views. A revaluation would also be expensive to administer, costing up to £180 million.
  • Less well-off to benefit most: In Labour’s 2005 council tax revaluation in Wales, four times as many homes moved up one or more bands as down. Labour politicians have admitted that it was used “hugely to increase the total [tax] take”. The less well-off were hit the hardest, with two-thirds of the hikes in homes that were originally in council tax Bands A to C (the lowest three bands).
  • Reining in the snooper state: The intrusive ‘Big Brother’ council tax database and snooping activities that Labour had planned for the council tax revaluation will be scaled back. An independent data audit will be undertaken to take the necessary steps to protect privacy and civil liberties. This is part of the new Government’s agenda of dismantling the ‘database state’, which includes scrapping Identity Cards.
  • Stopping state intrusion in your home: The Welsh revaluation by Labour Ministers was followed by a revaluation in Northern Ireland under direct rule. The law was changed to allow tax inspectors to fine households £1,000 to they failed to ‘co-operate’ with tax inspectors, or if they attempted to hinder or obstruct tax officials from entering their home. In England, council tax inspectors have legal powers of entry into your home, on pain of a £500 fine.

Spencer said “I welcome the new Government’s cancellation of Labour’s plans for a council tax revaluation which would have hiked up taxes on people’s homes here by £287. Hefty council tax bills are a constant financial worry for many people. This move will set their minds at ease, and will protect the interests of the less well-off in particular, the hardest hit from Labour’s council tax revaluation in Wales.

“The Conservative-led Government will protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens from intrusive spies-in-the-sky and halt state inspectors from barging into people’s bedrooms and gardens. We are standing up for the people who have pride in their home, and are calling time on Labour’s state snoopers and surveillance state.  Under a council tax revaluation, an average Band D home in Greenwich which was pushed up a band would see their bill rise to £1,578 – an extra £287 on yearly bills.”

 The facts about Labour's Welsh revaluation are that the Labour Government conducted a council tax revaluation in Wales in 2005. Four times as many homes moved up one or more council tax bands as moved down and one in three homes moved up one or more bands (Hansard, 16 April 2007, Col. 4WA). A move from Band D to Band E, for example, means a sustained 22 per cent increase on yearly council tax bills.  At the time, Labour Ministers claimed that the Welsh revaluation was revenue-neutral, but this is not the case. In the first year of the revaluation alone, council tax income rose by 10 per cent, of which 4 per cent was due to the increase in Band D, and 6 per cent due to more properties moving up the banding system due to the revaluation (Welsh Assembly Government, Submission to the Lyons Inquiry into Local Government, Annex B: Council Tax Revaluation and Rebanding 2005 Chronology and Facts, March 2006). The subsequent phasing out of revaluation transitional relief saw further hikes.  The (then) Labour Chairman of the DCLG Select Committee, Phyllis Starkey, subsequently admitted: “The Welsh Assembly – I believe it was my party, but I am not making an excuse for it – took advantage of the revaluation hugely to increase the total [tax] take” (Hansard, 3 February 2010, col. 383).