All 2 entries tagged Council Tax

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March 01, 2007

Let's scrap Council Tax

Council house - Who pays for this?It’s that time of year when we find out how much Council Tax we’ll have to pay for the next year.1 For years, rises have been above the rate of inflation, and people have got increasingly angry at their local councils.

Oddly, central government often escapes the blame. But the reality is it’s usually their fault.

Whenever a bill is passed in Parliament, it usually requires local councils to make changes to their policy or carry out something on the government’s behalf. But rarely does the government increase their budget to pay for this. It’s a clever way of making policy without having to pay for it.

Since 1997, the proportion of Council income coming from central government has fallen dramatically. The slack’s been made up by getting more money directly from Council Tax. It’s all part of a long-term push towards depoliticisation, which began in the Margaret Thatcher era.

It was the same logic behind privatising the railways. Take them out of central government control and all controversy will subside.

Didn’t that work well?

Well now it’s time to change Council Tax. It’s become a ridiculous system, and not just because it’s based upon the value of your house. It’s ridiculous because the demands being made on the Council’s income aren’t coming from the Council – they’re coming from Westminster.

So I suggest we scrap Council Tax altogether. If initiatives are going to come from central government, it should be central government who has to pay for them. Bring in direct funding for Councils and you’ll end this opaque taxation merry-go-round which is just making a lot of people poorer. Make government accountable for their actions and they’ll soon slow down their spending plans.

1. Okay, so I’m still a student and don’t pay it, but that’s not the point.

January 10, 2007

Council tax made me ill

I think I’m coming down with something. The time of night I’m writing this might be relevant.

But I think I’m finding council tax interesting.

I have an exam next week and the only compulsory question on the paper is about local government financing. It’s hardly an episode of 24.

It ought to be a complete bastard of a question, but a chapter in a book called Local Government in the United Kingdom (by Wilson and Game) has got me interested. It’s very well-written for a start, but it’s great at revealing how important local government finance is. I don’t think I can – or should – explain here why that’s the case. You’ll just have to believe me that it is.

The government’s ballsed the whole thing up (surprise surprise). Apparently we’re using house valuations which are now 18 years out of date and counting. We’re the only country in the world which has just one type of local tax (a tax on property). And we have one of the smallest local government sectors in the Western world. All of these things are a bit daft. The government have admitted this, but aren’t doing much about it.

And for all these reasons and more, I’ve decided that – at least in this book – local government finance is interesting and important.

I’m definitely ill.

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