David Cameron is making a big speech tomorrow morning on council tax. It appears, according to advance reports, that the Conservative leader will commit the party to give local voters the power to veto large rises in council tax. "Any authority," says the Mail, "wanting to impose a rise above a rate fixed annually would be forced to hold a local referendum seeking the approval of voters."
With inheritance tax, surveys suggest that the council tax is Britain's most hated.
12.30am: This from PA: "Tories see council tax as a potent political weapon due to growing voter discontent with bills which have risen, for a typical Band D property, by 92% in England and 103% in Wales since Labour came to power in 1997. Average Band D bills in England reached £1,321 this year, compared to £688 a decade ago. The total council tax take across Britain has increased from £11 billion in 1997 to £23.5 billion this year. Mr Cameron will argue today that referendums would be cheap to hold, because postal voting slips could be sent out in the envelope containing the yearly council tax bill."
10am: The press conference at the Young Foundation has just finished. Cameron drew heavily on the principles outlined in his Co-op speech in Manchester and post-bureaucratic speech in San Francisco before getting onto the proposed council tax referenda. Emphasis added:
"All politicians in opposition talk about giving more power to local councils. But all governments seem to end up centralising power. I want to prove that we will be different. That we really mean it when we talk about localisation. That’s why I am announcing today a significant new element in our policy platform: the democratisation of council tax.
Since Labour came to power council tax bills have doubled – largely thanks to unfunded burdens and extra bureaucracy from central government. The new powers we will give local councils will reduce the pressure to increase council tax bills. But I don’t propose to hand over power to councils without strengthening the accountability of councillors to the people they serve.
Today, that accountability is enforced through capping – an old-fashioned idea straight out of the bureaucratic age. I want to replace bureaucratic accountability with democratic accountability. Capping will be scrapped - and I want to allow local people themselves to have a say over local taxation.
So the next Conservative government will require councils that want to introduce high council tax rises to submit their plans to a local referendum. They must explain to local taxpayers why they want to raise taxes by so much and they must show what they would do – a shadow budget – in the event of their plans being rejected. Council tax referendum ballots would be sent out with the annual council tax bill – and if people voted against the rise, a rebate would be credited to the next year’s bill."
Download this pdf to read the full speech.
1pm: SocietyGuardian's Peter Hetherington claims that the LGA and Tory Town Halls aren't happy with the plan