UK

Government rules out English council tax revaluation

Row of terraced houses in Belsize Park, north-west London
Image caption Council tax bands in England have not been revalued for 17 years

There will be no revaluation of council tax bands in England during this Parliament, the government has pledged.

It means there will be no rise in local taxes for householders based solely on the increased value of their homes.

Every property in England is in one of eight council tax bands, depending on value, and these were last set in 1993.

The government said Labour had been "actively planning" to carry out a revaluation but Labour said its election manifesto had promised not to.

'Financial worries'

A revaluation was long overdue, but would prove highly unpopular with householders who found themselves in a higher band and therefore paying more in council tax, said the BBC's Greg Wood.

A revaluation in Wales in 2005 placed about a third of all homes there in a higher band.

The government says that a rise from Band D - the benchmark for council tax - to Band E would cost an extra £320-a-year.

The former Labour government had planned to revalue council tax bands in England in 2007, but announced in 2005 that it would postpone the decision until after the next general election.

It said the delay was to allow the issue to be considered as part of a wider inquiry into local authority funding, but some commentators said at the time that the decision was also a reaction to the anger sparked by the Welsh revaluation.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said the key thing was the relationship between the upper and lower bands of the tax, and they were roughly the same as when the tax was introduced.

"I've always argued against a revaluation because we know from what happened in Wales that it tends to hit poorer families. Given that the bands are roughly in the same position as when council tax was first introduced then it seems to me to be a matter of fairness that we don't impose an additional level of taxation, £1,600 during this Parliament, on ordinary families."

But 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 Valuation Office Agency's records."

The Taxpayers' Alliance, which campaigns for lower taxes, said families would be relieved there was to be no revaluation.

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

"What's been happening is that where local councils have looked at trying to find other ways of charging people, it's just simply meant other taxes... charging people for throwing away more rubbish or fining people and things like that."

Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster City Council, said councils would welcome the move as a "positive step" that would "end uncertainty" for many council tax payers and local authorities.

"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," he said.

What band a house falls into is determined by inspectors from the government's Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

There has been criticism in the past from some quarters over what data about people's homes is collected and kept by the VOA.

Mr Pickles said the government was moving to address this issue, and that an independent data audit of the VOA would protect privacy and civil liberties as part of dismantling the "database state".

The Scottish Parliament has no plans to revalue homes in the foreseeable future.

In Northern Ireland, which has a different system of local taxes, property values were reassessed in 2005.

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