By Eric Pickles
has a duty to treat the public fairly. We all know that the public
finances are in a mess, but council tax hikes are not the way to sort
them out. Hefty bills are already a constant financial worry for many
and that is why we’ve have promised to work with councils to
help deliver a freeze next year. A massive council tax revaluation is
not something a fair government should do. The announcements I have made
today will give council taxpayers greater certainty over future bills
and set about restoring a sense of privacy to the system.
Labour were plotting a secret council tax
revaluation building up a giant property database with a mountain of
intrusive information on people's homes. If we hadn't stepped in and
cancelled their plans, Hard working households tax bills would have
shell out up to an extra £320 every year– at the very time when they can least afford it. Council tax bills have doubled over the past decade hitting people on fixed incomes, like pensioners, the hardest whilst frontline services have been savagely cut. How can that be fair?
Thankfully we have been consistent and
open. Today the Exchequer Secretary, David Gauke and I are being
unequivocally clear by ruling out a council tax revaluation in the life
of this Parliament. We are setting the public's minds at ease and
protecting the interests of the less well-off. There will be no council
tax shocks for the next five years.
two issues with the calls for a revaluation. First council tax should
not be a tax on home improvements. We are standing up for people who
have pride in their homes. The system already has a fair mechanism that
adjusts the band when new owners move in. Second, we saw in the Welsh
revaluation in 2005, designed
simply to increase Labour's tax take, that revaluation would actually
hit poorer people harder than it would hit richer people. Two thirds of
the lowest banded homes went up. Nor did it fix the so called 1991
banding errors – one in twenty Welsh homes have had their banding
retrospectively changed as a result. And finally, anyone can already
challenge their banding at any time and get a review.
In the 18th century a
controversial ‘window tax’ was created that charged people for the
number of windows their house had. While this absurd idea was
eventually scrapped, it seems to have be reincarnated again. Data
published by the Valuation Office Agency this week reveals that they
have unfairly pried into more than 25m homes counting bedrooms, patios,
conservatories and even sea views. All to load the revaluation gun.
We made a promise to end the big brother state.
We have already stopped ID cards and today we have reined in the state
intrusion further. The new Government will protect the privacy of
law-abiding citizens from intrusive spies-in-the-sky and halt state
inspectors from barging into England’s bedrooms and gardens.
Bureaucratic convenience can’t be put above people's right to privacy.
The public have got to be confident that we respect their rights and
that necessary government business isn’t interfering or intrusive.
That’s why we’ve asked for an independent review of this database. We
want to make absolutely sure that our basic rights and values –
privacy, independence, freedom – always come first. Over the past
decade, the state has crept further and further into our homes, taking
more and more away as it creeps out. Today we are putting our foot down and making sure the era of state snoopers is consigned to the dustbin of history.