Council Tax: Government’s Proposed Increase

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 25th January 2021.

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Photo of Paul Beresford Paul Beresford Conservative, Mole Valley 4:40 pm, 25th January 2021

I listened to the previous speaker, Liam Byrne. The sad things he is telling us go right across the country, and that is why the Government have put a staggering £36 billion into local authorities and local businesses. Some £4.6 billion of that has been given in unprecedented, unring-fenced grants to those local authorities, and many of them, particularly the Labour ones, should be looking over their shoulder at how they have been spending the money. Their largesse is often outrageous.

It is interesting to compare three south London councils: Southwark, Lambeth and Wandsworth. All three are very similar, in that they are London local authorities, all with similar needs and a similar population. All have similar inner-city problems. They are neighbours. The first two are Labour-controlled, and have been through a considerable period of time as Labour-controlled councils. They have a reputation for high council taxes, without the quality of services to match. Wandsworth is a Conservative-controlled council. It has a reputation for high-quality services and low council tax. The central Government grant to Lambeth is approximately 15% higher than that to Wandsworth. The grant to Southwark is approximately 20% higher. The grant per head of the population is approximately 20% higher for both the Labour authorities.

If one looks at the council tax of those authorities, after the removal of the Mayor’s precept, Wandsworth’s council tax for this financial year at band D is approximately 40% that of the two Labour authorities, and it provides better services. Those councils should look to their expenditure. That is where they should be looking, but I guess they will not.

We all recognise that covid has put all local authorities under considerable pressure, but that is no excuse to agree the motion we are considering, which would cover the inability of many Labour authorities to better manage their services. They should use this opportunity for the sake of the public to keep their council tax rises right down, if not to zero.