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Words to describe the contribution from the Conservative Front-Bench almost fail me. I had hoped that after the exigencies of the election, we might have a rather more reasoned and thoughtful debate, as my right hon. Friend the Minister said, about the future of local government taxation and where it goes. Mrs. Spelman claimed that we did not need the revaluation, which the Conservatives themselves built into the council tax when they introduced it. Revaluation was seen as a logical part of the process because in one year, apparently, house prices were converging, whereas the idea of building a revaluation into the council tax takes account of the difference in prices over the period between one revaluation and another, so the revaluation relates council tax to the real price of houses, rather than to the fictitious base that successive failures to revalue would eventually create.
The hon. Lady contributed a series of non-suggestions for change—for example, by talking about how pensioners would get a rebate on council tax, without stating how that rebate would be funded. As she said, it would have to come from central Government funds, so the proportion of money coming from the centre would be greater, while the proportion from local funds would be smaller.
The third point in the Conservatives' case was that council tax-raising by the Government is a form of stealth tax that takes ever-increasing amounts of money away from local people.