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Local Taxation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 4th July 2005.

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Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman Shadow Secretary of State (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) 3:32 pm, 4th July 2005

The hon. Gentleman may want to discuss extensively the history of my party's introduction of the council tax. However, if he gets the chance to make that speech, he should deal with the fact that the revaluation measure was not part of the council tax when the Conservatives introduced it. The Labour Government's legislation introduced the revaluation.

On the basis of the Welsh experience, council tax payers in England have every reason to fear revaluation. Even worse, it transpires that, unlike in Wales, the Government will not fund transitional relief when homes in England are revalued. I wonder who will end up footing the bill for transitional relief. I received a parliamentary answer last week, and yet again it transpires that council tax payers will foot the bill—the same council tax payers who will have an army of clipboard inspectors descending on their homes and listing any improvements so that they can be taxed on them. Perhaps there is scope for a new generation of home makeover shows, in which Carol Smillie and workmen dismantle home improvements to help people reduce their council tax. It could be the window tax of the 21st century. We could end up explaining to our grandchildren why extra bedrooms and bathrooms had to be mothballed to avoid tax.

As if revaluation were not bad enough, the Government are keen to introduce new, higher tax bands. The inevitable consequence is higher council tax bills.

It so happens that I was in Cheadle this morning. That is precisely the kind of prosperous area that will be hit be the revaluation. If the Welsh experience is repeated there, the average home will go up by two council tax bands, adding more than £500 to the average bill. There is also every sign that the imposition of cost burdens from the centre will continue to rain down on local authorities, forcing up costs and driving up council tax bills. There is no better example of that than the case of identity cards. On 8 June, the Minister of Communities and Local Government stood at the Dispatch Box and refused to rule out local authorities having to pick up the bill for administering that invidious scheme.