Coffee House

Council tax increases, but might councils spend more wisely?

1 April 2013

11:27 AM

1 April 2013

11:27 AM

One development that IDS and George Osborne did not dwell upon in their Telegraph piece mentioned earlier was council tax, which, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is due to increase by £140 for the average poor family. The government has defended its spending settlement by donning its localist garb, for a moment, to argue that councils should marshal their resources with more care to protect rate payers.

The government’s aim is to shift responsibility from Whitehall to town halls in the hope of also shifting blame for unpopular policies. Local government resists. Sir Merrick Cockell, the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association, has been at pains to point out that:

‘The problem with all this is it’s a new responsibility passed to local councils by government but when they did that they cut £400m from the budget at the same time. And of course, that money has to come from somewhere. It’s either passed on to people, many of whom in the past haven’t paid any council tax, or you have to find some other way of meeting that reduction in your budget.’

[Alt-Text]


Ross Clark, writing in the latest issue of the Spectator, suggests how further savings might be made by local authorities and central government: reforming support for those with learning disabilities. Ross’ daughter has learning difficulties, and he has seen at first hand why ideological presumptions about care are failing those who need help and wasting tax payers money.

Subscribers, you can read Ross’s brilliant, heartfelt piece by clicking here. Non-subscribers, you can join us today for as little as £1 an issue. All our subscription deals can be found here.

PS: It has also been suggested that central government should give local authorities greater tax raising powers. This is the latest barrage in the perpetual battle over control of business rates and local charges; the reform of which, it is argued, might decentralise power in Britain, while also providing scope to stimulate growth and local businesses.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
  • Chris lancashire

    This year the business rates on our factory (yes, we make things!) is £66k. 5 years ago they were £34k. Local councils should not have ANY power to raise taxation.

  • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

    Council tax is going up in the main because those councils who have chosen to increase it (note, never by the 2% which would require a vote) are not up for election this may. This includes every single metropolitan council. This is the year where they can get away with whatever they want, Sheffield council can even close the Don Vally Stadium before they even finish paying for it.

    These people are ruining england much faster than any coalition policy, and have been doing so for years.

    • Daniel Maris

      Lordy, please do shut up. They haven’t got their fingers on the £300 billion QE button.

  • Daniel Maris

    Why isn’t this useless government doing something about that ridiculous claim by the PC who tripped over a kerb. Why on earth wasn’t she using a torch? Shouldn’t she be disciplined for bringing the Police Service into disrepute by her claim, which was a result of her own negligence in not using a torch?

    • alexsandr

      Surely this story is an april fool?

      • Hookeslaw

        It would be nice to think so but it was in yesterdays edition. (I am replying to you this time)
        When we see the police conspiring against government ministers and leaking against them I doubt that police care about any govt intervention even if it were legally possible.

        • Daniel Maris

          Surely the government, or parliament rather, can simply pass a law saying no Police officer may proceed with a claim against a victim of crime in this way (injury sustained in the course of investigation of a crime) and that any justifiable claims will be compensated for by the government.

          Furthermore a government minister can call for an urgent report from the relevant police force as to why this individual officer was not using her torch if it was dark. They can ask if she had been trained to use her torch when investigating crime in poorly lit areas. They can then publicise the answers they get.

    • HJ777

      What is the government supposed to do?

      It’s not the police who are making the claim. it’s the woman herself and she has a right to, however ridiculous it might be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

    Council Tax just increased 3%+ because Government grants were cut without removing obligations such as the huge Landfill Tax introduced by that idiot Gummer in 1996 which transfers money from the local area to Whitehall courtesy of the EU

  • silverghost

    I live next to a “home” for people with learning disabilities. Previously, such people lived in a larger institution where they had some freedom of movement and plenty of others with whom to socialise. Now, three of them live next door under virtual house arrest, with no community integration, but plenty of carers going back and forth; and the local budget is millions overspent. But hey, it’s not their money, so why should they give a damn?

    • Hookeslaw

      Why not just shoot them to get them out of the way?
      If stuck in an institution they would be costing money and a lot of it.
      How can you complain about Staffordhire and then come out with awful rubbish like that?

      I regularly see people being walked around shops ans supermarkets locally, under the supervision of their carers.

      • silverghost

        (Thinks – how do you reply to such a numpty?)
        First off, when did I say anything about Staffordhire, or any other plant hire firm? or Staffs hospital, come to that?
        Second, the point is that the old institution was better for the residents and per capita, a lot less expensive.
        Thirdly, did I give any impression of the residents being a social nuisance? or would that be the voices in your head?

        • Hookeslaw

          Your attitude to the humane care of people with learning difficulties is plain. They are not a danger to the community and should not be institutionalised. Enoch Powell started the process in the ’60s.

          ho ho ho – I must take care not to miss out any ‘s’essss next time I type. Is that your limit?

          We see much justified howling against the callous attitudes in staffordShire yet you want to shovel people away in institutions.. We can run our public services efficiently and caringly. One way is not to allow the unquestioned growth of benefits elsewhere.

          • silverghost

            Why should an “institution” equate to poorer care? Nor is that something I am advocating. A larger centre with opportunity to move about and socialise has to be better than the sole prospect of carers taking you somewhere – which is a lot more isolating than being shovelled away. Also, there are economies of scale.
            Are you what they call a “troll”?

      • alexsandr

        I don’t understand this care in the community thing. Surely people are better cared for in a community facility of about 30 people properly adapted for their needs and with carers on site 24/7 to look after them. That must be better and cheaper than having them in 2’s and 3’s spread round the place with intermittent care and probably cheaper too. Apart from anything a lot of carer time must be wasted as they drive from site to site. I dont mean the huge asylums of old, but small facilities, preferably in towns and cities and not shoved away remote in the countryside.

        • Hookeslaw

          That is still care in the community provided you are not imprisoning them – its a plausible option. The people whose business it is to run it ought to know. The houses of course are already there – your ‘facility’ would need building and maintaining.

          I am not sure that the principle was introduced to save money – it might have been. However it is developed, and it covers a wide range of illnesses and needs, it should be for the benefit of the patients.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            freed up lots of building land as those old institutions had fantastic park and recreation land

  • 1965doc

    Councils could start by getting rid of all their “community liaison officers” and “playgroup managers” and by reducing the pay of their “chief executives”, many of whom are paid fortunes for skills no better than those of street sweepers. They could also stop paying their councillors, who should give their dubious “services” free for the ‘honour’ of being a councillor.

  • alexsandr

    go to coventry. Look and marvel at the size of the estate they have for running what is quite a small city. What do these people do all day? Some of these councils have got far too large and should be slimmed down.

    • Daniel Maris

      Have you seen the size of those banker bonuses? Why don’t we slim those down first before trying to deflate our economy further?

      • alexsandr

        It is the leeches in the public sector doing noon jobs that is deflating the economy. We cant afford em and they are holding back growth.

        • 1965doc

          It’s true there are many in the public sector like this—-especially the New Labour apparatchiks called NHS “managers”, but this does not alter the fact that the bankers caused this slump with their sub-prime mortagages bought from corrupt American banks. They should be jailed, as in Iceland, not rewarded for their utter failure. They are obviously useless, or our banks would be solvent.

          • Hookeslaw

            The NHS needs managing. Its management costs are not excessive. In my experience its managers work pretty hard.
            This does not alter the other issue of banks taking on sub prime loans.

            • alexsandr

              WTF has banking got to do with local government. Change the record,please.

              • Hookeslaw

                WTF?? Look who I was replying to and why. Not you

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

                Interest Rate Swaps and some vey odd deals like borrowing Shares in firms like Cadbury from LA Pension Funds

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            NHS Managers were created by Sir Keith Joseph

      • 1965doc

        Absolutely——these bonuses of millions each are actually being paid by US, as most of the banks are now largely publicly owned. It was the bankers who got us into this mess. They’re not exactly skilled like surgeons, none of whom ever get a bonus. The bankers keep threatening to emigrate—well we’d be much better off if they cleared off to ruin some other country’s banks as they’ve ruined ours.

        • DWWolds

          You forget that 60% or so – top rate of tax plus NI contribution – goes back to the Treasury. As I’ve posted above take that out and our economy really would be beyond redemption.

          • Daniel Maris

            You’re seriously telling us these bankers pay the full whack in tax? LOL

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            Let the banks borrow from the B of E at 3% not 0.5%

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            You must believe in fairies too

        • alexsandr

          dont lend money to banks then. Look for alternative investments.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            I am hoping we can topple Osborne and stop lending money to banks in favour of alternative investments like NEW BANK instead of ZOMBIE BANK

        • Daniel Maris

          Yep. Let’s stop paying the bonuses and see if they go…one can but hope.

        • HJ777

          More than half of NHS Consultants now get what are effectively lifetime bonuses, which average around £10,000 each annually.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            There are very few NHS Consultants…..far too few

            • HJ777

              There’s about 40,000.

              We can debate whether there’s enough but I don’t call that “very few”.

      • DWWolds

        But the financial services still contributes over 10% to our GDP. That has more than halved since 2008. However, take the remaining 10% out and our economy would really be beyond repair.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          How much of our GDP are we puting into that insolvent sector ?

      • anyfool

        All the bankers bonuses in all the world would not keep the government going for one day, whereas the interest paid to all the useless non jobs in the country would remove any need for borrowing and then some.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          Idiot. I think you will find they would. John Paulson could make a big contribution

      • The Sage

        But for the most part these bonuses are paid by privately owned banks and financial institutions and surely it is up to these organisations to decide what and how to remunerate their staff – and nobody else.
        I couldn’t care less what bankers earn. Let them earn millions and pay tax at 45%. More fool them.
        As Gordon Brown found out, without bankers’ bonuses (and the taxes that these generate) the country quickly runs out of cash – as indeed we have done.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          Potty. ALL BANKS are insolvent floating on QE and getting Bernanke Subsidy as they lived on Greenspan Put and Yen Carry

    • Hookeslaw

      Numbers are falling under this government.

  • Daniel Maris

    Ross Clark’s piece is a viewpoint. He’s probably got plenty of money to visit his daughter in a community far away. Lots of working class parents won’t have those resources. Maybe they would prefer their child to be located locally.

    • Russell

      Preference is a luxury rich economies can afford to do. As Byrne should have said ‘Labour spent all the money, there is none left’.
      There are a lot of nice to have services as well as purely wasted taxpayers/ratepayers cash (Overpaid advisers (and a horde of assistants) for everything from walking coaches to gay/lesbian projects), which most of the paying population neither want or can afford.

  • Hookeslaw

    The notion that local authorities would be given tax raising powers should strike terror into all normal people everywhere.
    You might call it decentralising power i would call it giving matches to children to play with.

    • Andy

      Yes but . . . .

      If you divorce spending, which Local Councils are very good at, from raising the majority of the taxes to pay for said spending you destroy accountability. No wonder you get all these bloody ‘socialist prejudices’ when they can sit, spend and pontificate clearly divorced from the real world. If they have to find the cash and justify it to an angry electorate it would be very different. Perhaps we could also bring in referenda so they need to obtain specific consent to raise taxes above a certain rate.

      • Hookeslaw

        Its an opinion and a fair one. Rates are collected locally and ought to be a driver for accountability.

        But look at how central government spending has spiralled under socialists, But more importantly look at how difficult it is to get it down once the genie is out of the bottle. Central government get away with this because of the fig leaf of borrowing. Local govt would soon start wanting improved borrowing powers if you give them wider revenue powers.

        ‘Decentralisation’ has consequences if local spending and borrowing affect national decisions and national govt will not like or want to take the blame for local stupidities.

        • Andy

          You could always stop local borrowing – ie force them to run a balanced budget. You could also make the francise only council taxpayers, ie no taxation without representation, or no representation without paying the taxation ! Socialists would love that.

          • Hookeslaw

            Yes maybe. But US states are often heavily in debt. California to the tune of hundreds of billions.

            • Andy

              Indeed, but the principle is sound. If you don’t pay for it why should you be allowed to vote for it ???

              Many US States are heavily in debt. In California they have ‘propositions’, direct local democracy. Problem is people often vote for opposites ie cut taxtes and increase spending. But if you force a balanced budget that would resolve that.

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

                Balanced Budget causes the borrowing and th leases and sale-and-leasebacks and in the UK Council Spending is mandated and ring-fenced by Whitehall

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      They do enough damage with Parking Charges, User Fees, illegal Bailiff Charges, and have found huge sources of revenue besides Council Tax

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Agreed. Matches and a shed load of dynamite actually.

  • DWWolds

    “the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is due to increase by £140 for the average poor family.”

    The county where I live was Labour controlled until the last local elections. I moved into my current home in 1997. From that date until Labour lost power my council tax doubled with no discernible improvement in the services provided.

    • Hookeslaw

      Plus things like education and welfare disbursements are funded from central government
      I bet you got a nice glossy magazine though.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        glossy magazine being a requirement imposed by Whitehall in Blair years

    • telemachus

      And yet your personal prosperity increased in leaps and bounds like everyone else from 1997

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        Do you have a microscope ?

        • Andy

          No he hasn’t taken his medication.

      • DWWolds

        Actually it did not and it certainly did not double. And that was not least because I do not live on my credit card and other borrowings, which is what Brown did and what he persuaded most of the population to do. Now we are experiencing the cold turkey that caused.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Delete “prosperity” and replace with “borrowing” and you will have made your first and probably last, sensible comment.

Close