Government rules out Council Tax revaluation

There will be no revaluation of council tax bands in England during the current Parliament, Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced.

Mr Pickles announced an independent review of council tax inspections, which he said would "rein in intrusive snooping" by limiting the data gathered and stored about people's homes.



The Communities Secretary said families in England could save up to £320 a year in local tax hikes from his decision not to go ahead with a revaluation being planned by Labour.



But Labour denounced his claims as "cynical and misleading", pointing to a pledge in this year's election manifesto which promised: "We will not hold a council tax revaluation in the next Parliament."



Council tax bands in England are based on valuations of property carried out in 1991. Plans for a revaluation of 22 million homes in 2007 were postponed by the former Labour government in 2005, amid anger over a previous exercise in Wales which led to tax hikes for many households.



Mr Pickles said the Welsh revaluation led to one-third of homes moving up one or more bands - four times as many as moved down. The less well-off were hit the hardest, with two-thirds of the hikes in homes that were originally in the lowest three bands, he said.



If the experience of Wales were repeated in England, families in homes moved up one band from D to E would face a tax hike averaging around £320 a year, said Mr Pickles.



This would increase the burden of council tax bills which rose under Labour from £688 for a typical Band D home in 1997/98 to £1,439 in 2009/10, said the Communities Secretary.



Meanwhile, the taxpayer will save up to £180 million on the cost of administering a revaluation exercise, he said.



An independent data audit of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will protect privacy and civil liberties as part of the new Government's agenda of dismantling the "database state", said Mr Pickles.



The VOA's inspectors assess properties' value for council tax purposes, and there was previously controversy over their collection of data on features of homes such as the number of bedrooms or bathrooms, whether it has a patio and whether it enjoys a nice view or is in a good neighbourhood.



Mr Pickles said: "We have cancelled Labour's plans for a council tax revaluation which would have hiked up taxes on people's homes.



"The new Government will protect the privacy of law-abiding citizens from intrusive spies-in-the-sky and halt state inspectors from barging into England's bedrooms and gardens.



"We are standing up for the people who have pride in their home, and calling time on Labour's state snoopers and surveillance state.



"Hefty council tax bills are a constant financial worry for many people. We are setting their minds at ease, and protecting the interests of the less well-off in particular who were the hardest hit from Labour's council tax revaluation in Wales."



A Labour spokesman said: "The Labour Party made an unequivocal commitment that there would be no council tax revaluation in this Parliament.



"This is a cynical and misleading manipulation of facts based on what was ultimately a routine updating of the VOA's records."



And consumer guru Martin Lewis, of moneysavingexpert.com, said that the failure to hold a revaluation would mean 400,000 homes remaining in the wrong council tax bands.



"I remember sitting opposite Eric Pickles on TV when he decried Labour for covering up that 400,000 people were in the wrong council tax band," said Mr Lewis.



"Yet this means those people will remain in the wrong band - still based on valuations done by estate agents driving past homes in 1991. The system is flawed, and was never meant to last this long."



Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, which campaigns against intrusions on privacy, said: "For too long, tax inspectors have been able to intrude into people's private homes and place their property details on an insecure state database, all in the name of generating extra revenue for the Government coffers.



"The announcement is welcome and not before time. We only hope this is just the first step on the road to removing the prying eyes of the state from our private property."



But a spokeswoman for the VOA said it was "absolutely not the case" that its inspectors' work amounted to "snooping" on householders. The Agency has never exercised its legal right to enter a home since it was introduced by legislation in the early 1990s, she said.



The spokeswoman said: "We will only ask to see inside people's homes in very, very rare circumstances. When we do that, we do it by agreement with the individual and often at the individual's request.



"The bulk of our work doesn't take us anywhere near the inside of people's homes."



Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, said: "Families who faced a rise in council tax will be relieved that this revaluation is no longer going ahead.



"Council tax has doubled in the last 10 years whilst many services have been scaled back, executive pay has spiralled out of control and charges have increased; it's time council tax was cut."



Cllr Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster City Council, said: "Councils will welcome this move as a positive step that will end uncertainty for many council tax payers and local authorities."



He said: "It allows the Government to concentrate on creating a fairer and more responsive financial system, reflecting the differing needs of each area.



"We, for instance, would refer to the special problems of poverty in Westminster alongside the responsibility we have to keep the city clean for millions of visitors every day.



"Others will have different pressures, but we are glad that the Government has recognised that tinkering with the council tax is not the answer."

Chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Steve Freer said he was not surprised by the announcement, but added: "This leaves a huge problem. One does begin to wonder whether we will ever have a government that will take this on."



He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It's a matter of fact that some of us are paying too little and some of us are paying too much - we just don't know who.



"We are simply not learning the lessons of the past."

Mr Pickles insisted it was the relationship between the tax bands that was crucial to fairness.

"I have been arguing for a long time that it's the relationship between the bands that matters," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.



"This is essentially about fairness. Why should we penalise people with a tax increase when the relationship between the top band and the bottom band is roughly where it was when the council tax was first introduced.



"They (councils) can increase their council tax. We are removing capping to allow local people to decide the level of their council tax by way of a referendum."



He ruled out allowing individual councils to conduct their own authority's revaluations, saying: "I think it stinks as an idea."



He stressed: "It's the relationship between the top and the bottom bands that's important, and the relationship between the north of England and the south of England. They are roughly in the same position they were 20 years ago so there's no need for a revaluation."



Mr Pickles added: "What we want to do is offer some degree of stability, and just coming out of recession and for ordinary people I don't think we should be imposing an extra £1,600 of taxation on them."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Louis van Gaal
football
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own