Taxpayers in England have experienced a rise in council tax 15 times for every cut made in the last 20 years, according to research from the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA).
The TPA found that between 1997 and 2010, the average number of councils in England raising their rates each year was 319 out of a total of 354.
This figure dropped to zero following the introduction of a coalition government council tax freeze scheme in 2010. This scheme was designed to relieve household budgets by providing councils with a grant from central government if they froze tax rates. But the scheme came to an end in 2015/16, which led to a jump in the number of councils increasing tax rates to 128, followed by a further jump to 306 in 2016/17.
This number has since risen again to 331 in 2017/18. This tax year, from a total of 354 councils in England, just six councils cut rates and 17 froze rates.
Overall, council tax hikes amount to a 57% average rise nationally in the last 20 years. The TPA says it has calculated this increase in real-terms which accounts for inflation too.
However, as each council sets its own rate, residents of different authorities will have had very different experiences. For example, those living in Westminster City Council currently pay the lowest band D council tax in the country, at just £688 per year. In comparison, band D residents in Weymouth & Portland Borough Council pay an eye-watering £1,891 in council tax.
Per dwelling, Chiltern District Council residents pay the most at £1,905.95, while Wandsworth Borough Council residents pay the least at £644.50.
As Moneywise reported in December 2017, councils will soon be given powers to raise rates by up to 2.99% without a referendum - up from the current 1.99% limit. Councils will also be given the power in 2018/19 to raise rates by a further 3% to cover the cost of local social care. This means residents of many boroughs could soon find themselves with inflation-busting rises of up to nearly 6%. Any council that intends to raise rates above these amounts has to stage a local referendum on the issue.
Moneywise approached the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) for comment on the increase in the number of councils raising rates. It declined to comment specifically on the rising number of councils raising rates, with an MHCLG spokesman saying only: “We are committed to ensuring that council tax-payers can veto excessive increases via a local referendum.”
Commenting on the research, John O’Connell, chief executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, says: “Councils have been raising tax year in, year out for decades, and continue to demand even more. Councillors should remember that council tax is a major burden on residents and a huge contributor to the cost of living. Councils should look to reduce spending before hitting taxpayers with yet another round of painful tax hikes.”
See the table below for full details of how many councils have increased council tax rates since 2011/12.
Source: TaxPayers' Alliance, January 2018.
Council tax outside of England
In Scotland, the council tax freeze which had been in place since 2007 has now ended. In the 2017/18 tax year, councils in Scotland had the power to raise council tax by up to 3%. Those with properties in bands E to H also saw their bills rise by up to £10 a week because of changes to the national council tax system. This rise is on top of any 3% local increases.
In Wales, there is no cap governing how much local authorities can raise taxes by in the 2017/18 financial year.
In Northern Ireland, council tax doesn’t exist.