Today at Kent County Council’s 2021 budget meeting, Kent Liberal Democrats, who are the largest opposition group, challenged the fairness of the council tax system and called for council tax to be abolished.
Our amendment called for the council to write to the government to ask for council tax to be reviewed and an alternative system used.
It was proposed by Faversham councillor Antony Hook.
Council Tax is an unfair system that takes no account of ability to pay and based on bands that are considered arbitrary.
The Lib Dem amendment was accepted by the Council Leader but opposed by a senior Conservative backbencher, Folkestone councillor Rory Love.
The Liberal Democrat amendment to the budget is as follows:
The Council recognises that council tax is a regressive tax, the burden of which unfairly falls on Kent households with limited incomes.
Consequently, increases in council tax, together with the social care precept, will fall disproportionally on those least able to pay.
The Council notes that any change to the current council tax bands and charging structure needs to be sanctioned by Parliament.
The Council therefore agrees that:
(q) The Leader of the Council should write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government requesting that the current council tax bands and charging structures in England be reviewed, as a matter of urgency, so they better reflect people’s ability to pay the tax.
Proposer: Antony Hook Seconder: Ida Linfield
Mr Hook’s speech to council -
"Today is Kent’s budget day. We will debate the detail of how Kent County Council spends money.
We will debate the proposal to increase Council Tax again.
Which is most painful because Council Tax is an appalling method of taxation.
It takes no account of ability to pay.
At the very bottom there is the imperfect safety net of Council Tax benefit.
But for the vast majority of working families a hit in income, caused by Covid or for other reasons in normal times, will mean no respite from Council Tax.
For pensioners and people on fixed incomes it is a real issue. Only a few years ago this Council was reported in the news as wanting to give pensioners an extra discount but was told it is illegal– so we agree there is a problem, and there is no solutions as long as Council Tax lives.
It is based on 8 bands, set in 1991 and out of date.
They were said to be incremental so the asset rich pay more than the asset poor.
But there is no further increment after H, which is the equivalent of £614,000 in today’s prices.
So a person in a £614,000 house pays the same as a person in a £5 million house.
And a Band A home, less than £84,000 in today’s money is still paying 2/3 of the basic Band D amount.
It’s neither rational nor fair.
VAT is considered regressive but, to some extent, a family that needs to tighten its belt can avoid VAT by spending less. There is no way to avoid Council Tax and if you move you’re hit by stamp duty anyway.
Council Tax is a mad dog that is not on a lead but has all its victims tied up.
Around the world there are many alternative forms of municipal tax.
There is no need to divide the council today by being prescriptive about which alternative should replace it.
All the alternatives should be studied.
We want a review.
Unless you think Council Tax is fair, then support this motion."