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Council tax shake-up necessary but difficult

New report highlights problems with council tax but can the recommendations be implemented fairly?

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s call for a radical revaluation of council tax bands highlights the flaws in a system that affects all homeowners. The charity insists that council tax bands do not reflect prices in today’s market leaving 3.7 million households paying too much. The current system is flawed and dated and means that some homeowners pay disproportionately more than others. But change is also fraught with pitfalls and there will be losers. Homeowners who have improved their home by putting in new windows, insulation or building an extension – behaviour that the government is encouraging – will have to pay more tax.

Yet it is surely also in everyone’s interest to have a housing market which is fair and does not impose a greater burden on the poorer than the rich.  But how many politicians are brave enough to tackle the problem?  Any change will be strongly opposed by the majority of homeowners unless there is a rock-hard guarantee that no one will pay more tax than they currently do. In the midst of the present economic crisis it will need a bold minister to risk upsetting middle England and the mainstream press. The enduring images of the polltax riots are enough to dissuade any politician from even considering tinkering with the council tax bands, let alone a wholesale change.

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