Families whose council tax has soared by 563% while their public services have gone to pot


Over the past two decades, Colin Warburton has noticed a profound change in the public services near his home in Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees.

Libraries have closed, the bus route the 72-year-old used to take into nearby Middlesbrough no longer runs and local roads are pitted with potholes.

Yet, to Colin’s exasperation, his council tax bill has soared.

In 1998, the annual cost for his five-bedroom detached house was £1,349. Now, the retired nuclear safety engineer and his wife pay £3,134 a year for their band G property.

In many areas the quality of public services has fallen leaving roads are pitted with potholes, despite council tax rates spiralling

In many areas the quality of public services has fallen leaving roads are pitted with potholes, despite council tax rates spiralling

In many areas the quality of public services has fallen leaving roads are pitted with potholes, despite council tax rates spiralling

The 132 per cent increase means his council tax has risen at three times the rate of inflation.

Colin says the tax became his biggest monthly expense about a decade ago, when payments outstripped his mortgage.

‘The roads in this area are riddled with potholes, which the council does nothing about, and the bus route I used to use to travel into Middlesbrough has been cut,’ Colin says.

‘It’s not right that I’m forced to pay these enormous sums when I don’t see any benefit.’ An analysis of official data by Money Mail showed that Mr Warburton isn’t even among the worst affected by huge rises in council tax since the levy was introduced in 1993.

We found that bills in some parts of Britain have risen nine times faster than the cost of living. In Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, in 1993, a property in band D — the most common council tax bracket — was charged £245.25 a year. 

Now, the annual bill is £1,625.82. That means residents have had to face a 563 per cent increase over the space of 25 years. By comparison, the cost of living has risen by just 65 per cent in that time.

Figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, compiled for Money Mail by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, show that in North Dorset, charges for band D properties have gone from £463.50 to £1,924.94 — a 315 per cent increase.

The third-largest percentage rise was in Huntingdonshire, not far from Cambridge, where rates for band D have risen 304 per cent, from £434.25 to £1,753.39.

Yet the data shows families face a postcode lottery of price rises. While more than 300 local authorities have hiked their charges faster than the cost of living, others have kept them on track.

For example, Conservative-run Wandsworth council in South London has put up its council tax rates 61 per cent since 1993. 

Its band D charge is now £722.65, up from £448.88. Meanwhile, in Greenwich there’s been an 83 per cent increase, from £783 to £1,429.46.

And in Hammersmith and Fulham, home to some of the most sought-after properties in the capital, the band D rate is £1,022.04 — far less than Colin’s annual rate or that of those living in Wellingborough, and only 86 per cent up from the £549 residents paid in 1993.

Councils say the increases reflect the soaring costs of caring for the elderly and providing public services. This year alone, council tax bills in England are rising by an average of £80.

A Local Government Association spokesman says: ‘Since 2010, council tax bills have risen by less than inflation and other key household bills. 

But faced with severe funding pressures, many councils feel they are being left with little choice other than to ask residents to pay more to help them try to protect their local services.’

The spokesman says councils’ overall funding gap will exceed £5 billion by 2020, and described the need for extra cash as ‘urgent’.

But experts say taxpayers should not be forced to shore up flagging local services while fat-cat council bosses take bumper pay packets.

More than 2,000 council workers earned more than £100,000 last year, while 26 took home more than that sum as a redundancy payout.

One boss, Chris West, executive director of resources at Coventry Council, was paid a severance package worth £448,000.

Mark Littlewood, director general at the Institute of Economic Affairs, says: ‘Council tax hikes of this magnitude are hard to swallow when you consider how many councils have failed to budget properly.

‘Local authorities should scale back and spend less on things such as excessive pay before raising taxes.’

A government body, the Valuation Office Agency, is responsible for working out into which council tax band each home in the country should fall.

However, it’s up to individual councils to decide what the annual council tax charge should be.

As well as elderly care, the tax pays for local services such as highways maintenance, police and fire services, libraries, planning, transport, refuse collections, leisure and recreation.

Anyone over 18 has to pay, regardless of whether they own or rent their home, though some are eligible for discounts.

How much a household has to pay is mainly determined by the value of the property and where it sits in eight valuation bands, ranging from the lowest, A, to the highest, H. The bands are calculated so that people on the top rate pay three times as much as those on the bottom.

New rules introduced in 2015 gave councils the power to increase council tax by 3 pc to pay for social care services for adults — on top of a core increase of up to 2 per cent.

The average bill in England is now £1,671, up 194 per cent in 25 years, according to the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

James Price, the lobby group’s campaign manager, says: ‘It is not fair that taxpayers should shoulder ever-greater burdens because councils cannot get a grip on their addiction to overspending.’




Source link