UK Politics

Labour's Chris Williamson suggests doubling tax for top value homes

Man taking rubbish into bins Image copyright PA

A senior Labour MP has suggested doubling council tax bills on the highest-value homes in England to ease the budget pressures facing local authorities.

Chris Williamson, an ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said increases could be staggered from 20% for a Band D home up to 100% for the top Band, H.

Speaking to HuffPost UK, he said his idea was not Labour policy.

But he said it had a lot of support among Labour activists.

The proposal was attacked by the Conservatives' newly-appointed housing minister, Dominic Raab.

"The last Labour government doubled council tax and now they want to hike it again. This latest plan would see people's bills soar by 20% and add at least £320 a year to the average council tax bill," said Mr Raab.

"Only the Conservatives have the balanced approach our economy needs to keep more money in people's pockets."

Local government leaders in England have said they are at "financial breaking point" due to cuts in their funding, most of which comes from central government.

Mr Williamson, who is the shadow fire and emergency services minister, said his proposal for council tax "could be the only way of arresting the cuts and generating some income to start to grow local services".

The amount of council tax paid on a home depends on which band it falls into.

'Not a panacea'

The bands are graded A to H based on an assessment of their value carried out in 1991.

Under Mr Williamson's proposal, council tax would be frozen in Bands A to C, with increases of 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% and 100% applied to the higher bands.

The Derby North MP told HuffPost that under rules set by the government, a referendum would be required for the increases.

"You can imagine the Daily Mail and Daily Express would go to town on a proposition like this," he said.

"It's not a panacea, it's a response to a terrible situation. I think it's an argument that could be won.

"This is not Labour party policy, it's an idea I came up with at a local level and it's got a little bit of traction in other parts of the country. It's a reaction to an emergency that local government has been placed in."

The government says councils in England will need to hold a local referendum if they want to increase core bills by more than 3% when they budget for next year.

Combined with the 3% "precept" for those councils funding social care, it means some bills could rise by up to 5.99% without voters having a say.

The referendum scheme was introduced via the Localism Act 2011 and applies to England only. In Wales, the national assembly still has the power has the power to 'cap' local authorities' council tax rises.

In Scotland, MSPs voted in 2016 to end a council tax freeze, with the first increases coming into effect in April last year.