Judy Terry is a marketing professional who stood down as a councillor last May
Small wonder that Peter Mandelson objects to Labour’s Mansion Tax. His London mansion is surely worth several million! But he’s right – the proposal is ‘crude’, and unlikely to raise the £1.5 billion (or £2.5 billion, depending on which shadow minister is being grilled).
It is the politics of envy yet again. If we can’t have what you have, we’ll try to ruin it for you. Worse still, it will penalise those who are not multi-millionaires, but acquired their homes when prices were more affordable because specific locations which are now highly desirable (especially in London) were being gradually ‘gentrified’.
Before moving to Suffolk in the late ‘70s, my husband and I were on the verge of buying a three bedroom terraced house in Islington overlooking a garden square. It cost £23,500, and needed quite a lot of work. Today, it would be worth nearer £3 million! (Instead, we paid £18,000 for a brand new four bedroom detached house in a quarter of an acre – now worth about £350,000…) Despite their lucky gamble, forcing owners to pay more than £250 a month extra, in addition to other bills (including council tax, which is hardly cheap in Islington) would be completely unaffordable in retirement.
Ed Balls struggled to articulate his Mansion Tax on Radio 4’s lunchtime news recently, and said he wouldn’t be able to provide details until Labour is elected and he is in the Treasury. But he has previously said that payment could be deferred (with interest) until a property is sold, or the owner dies – which means that their asset could be almost valueless over, say, a decade or two. Labour’s reward for a lifetime of hard work, good luck and careful financial management .
Yet Mr. Balls (and Yvette) are part of a generation of pre-2010 MPs who were able to acquire properties in London and their constituencies with the help of the taxpayer, so, should he pursue this punitive proposal, I suggest that all their property assets (including holiday homes) are combined into a single valuation for the purposes of the Mansion Tax.
No doubt Mr. and Mrs. Balls – along with many front bench and other colleagues – would qualify handsomely. Perhaps they would then take a different view of its fairness?
But, and it pains me to agree with the LibDems, I do think it is time to review council tax rather than, for example, introduce more taxes, such as congestion charges (as is proposed by the Greens for Cambridge) which penalise everyone. It is also hypocritical because people need to use their cars – for school runs and getting to/from work, as well as for leisure. Cycling or using public transport is not appropriate or possible for many people.
Talking of hypocrisy, why do Labour councils continue to increase rents on their housing estates, when they constantly a). bleat about the ‘cost of living crisis’ and b). criticise the government for the increase in housing benefit costs?
For example, in Ipswich, the fourth rise in as many years means that 3,100 council tenants who receive full housing benefit, and the 2,070 who are eligible for some, will be subsidised by the taxpayer, leaving just 2,830 tenants to pay the full amount. Added to which, they have increased council tax by the maximum allowed by Eric Pickles in each of the last four years.
Cost of living crisis? Too right. And we know who to blame! These increases are neither justified nor fair.
With budgets now under scrutiny for the next financial year, councils should be focusing on what residents want them to deliver, remembering that council services are actually very expensive when compared with the equivalent delivered by the private sector. A final thought: Don’t tell me the quality is better, because all too often it isn’t; private businesses only survive if they deliver customer satisfaction.