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Calling time on Labour's secret plans for council tax revaluation

By Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles cheerful The Government 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. 

We have 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.


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