Government reforms could make council tax even more unpopular

A Government inquiry into the funding of local councils has this week published its interim report. The inquiry has attracted controversy by suggesting new charges for local services on top of council taxes, a new hotel tax, a council tax revaluation, and higher bills for many homes by scrapping the ‘banding’ system - creating a ‘son of rates’.

Greenwich Conservatives welcome the calls in the report to reform council tax benefit to help low income groups, particularly pensioners. Soaring levels of council tax under the current Government – up 44% in our borough - have hit some of the most vulnerable groups in our community the hardest.

However, there are other recommendations which we are very uneasy over, such as plans for new charges for local services like rubbish collection – on top of council tax. People should not be charged again for a service they already pay for.

Introducing a hotel tax on top of existing taxes could undermine the local tourism industry.

The proposals threaten higher taxes for families and pensioners who have worked hard, saved and invested in their homes, without any improvement in their local services. We think this would be very unpopular, and might force some pensioners, on fixed incomes, to sell the family homes that they have lived in for years.

Council tax is a very visible and now a very unpopular tax. Such reforms could make it even more disliked. We fear the Government may use this review as an opportunity to increase the tax burden on hard-working families and pensioners in Greenwich, rather than freeing councils from expensive Whitehall interference and restoring trust and confidence in local democracy. People want top quality public services without having to pay an ever-increasing bill for them.