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Calls to Change ‘Unfair’ Council Tax System Under Which Mansion Owners Don’t Pay A Fair Share

Published on: 12 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 14 Feb, 2022

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Surrey councillors are calling for a “flawed and unfair” council tax system to be reformed after claims a £20million Godalming mansion is charged only twice as much as an average council tax bill.

Cllr Robert Evans

Labour group leader Robert Evans said Tuesday’s (February 8) budget at Surrey County Council was a “missed opportunity to redistribute” and “the leader and those close to Surrey’s 11 MPs” should be lobbying central government for reform.

Property values relating to council tax bands are based on what they would have sold for in 1991, when the highest band H properties were valued at £320,000 and over.

Cllr Evans (Stanwell & Stanwell Moor) said: “If the government is serious about levelling up, quite apart from the North-South divide, there is another anomaly which could easily be addressed.

“I suggest that somebody in Whitehall looks at the whole issue of council tax and tries to address how unfair and unsatisfactory this is.”

A nine-bed, six reception roomed house in Witley near Godalming, which has a recording studio, swimming pool and stables set on 89 acres of land, is on the market for £19.75 million.

Its annual council bill is £4,216, compared with £1,640 for a band B one-bed flat also currently on sale on Charterhouse Road in Godalming.

The flat’s occupants would pay less than one per cent of the mortgage payments of the Witley occupants (£773 a month compared to £82,454 according to a Rightmove estimate) – yet 39 per cent of their council tax bill.

Cllr Nick Darby

Residents’ Association and Independent group leader Nick Darby (The Dittons) also spoke at yesterday’s meeting of the “flawed” council tax system.

He said: “I have said before and will repeat now we need additional council tax bands so those with higher property values pay more.

“In doing so we begin to address issues of poverty, deprivation, no one left behind.

“Doing nothing achieves precisely the opposite; we must press for the legislation to cover this.”
Surrey County Council has made £240m in cuts since 2018.

But according to research by the Liberal Democrats, 24 per cent of Woking’s households are in bands E-H, so higher than the average band D.

Cllr Will Forster

Lib Dem group leader Will Forster agreed with Cllrs Evans and Darby that adding higher bands for the “regressive and unpopular” tax “makes a lot of sense” and said it was “silly” there had been no revaluation in the last 30 years.

“Things have changed a lot since the 1990s,” he said.

“We’re not talking about four-bedroomed houses, but the ridiculously large mansions in, for example, Virginia Water.”

Council tax is paying for more and more of local authorities’ budgets as grants from central government are squeezed, and now makes up almost 80 per cent of Surrey County Council’s £1.042 billion budget.

In a House of Commons debate on funding for local authorities yesterday, the shadow minister for local government said it was “inherently unfair” that council tax was the “main source of income” for councils and made the point that Surrey benefits from having more higher band properties than many.

R4GV’s councillor for Guildford South East From Davidson focussed on the impact of the budget. She said she entirely supported the strapline being used by SCC in its communications, “No One Left Behind”.

But she continued: “What concerns me is whether the council’s actions in this budget, live up to the admirable objective?”

“There’s a huge amount of cynicism with politics and politicians at the moment. The contradiction between what politicians say and what they do is the single biggest cause of the cynicism. So how is this council matching actions with words?”

She continued by listing the vulnerable groups who would be affected: “…adults of all ages with physical and learning difficulties, children and young people including those with special educational needs and disabilities, older adults and their carers, women, particularly those who work in areas where they make up the majority of the frontline workforce,…” as included in SCC’s own impact assessment, concluding, “So maybe not a good start for, ‘No One Left Behind’.”

Cllr Tim Oliver

As previously reported, SCC leader Cllr Tim Oliver (Con, Weybridge) said they had no choice but to raise council tax, as the average cost of supporting an older person had increased by 13 per cent compared with before the pandemic.

He said: “We’re determined to do right by all generations. To provide dignity and a better quality of life.

“We could shirk our responsibility, put our head in the sand and muddle along hoping for government money that will not come.

“But we’re not going to that. We are going to stand up, roll up our sleeves and not only tackle those challenges – we’re going to make the best of them.

“We’re going to make Surrey a better place. And we’re going to make sure no one is left behind.”

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test One Response to Calls to Change ‘Unfair’ Council Tax System Under Which Mansion Owners Don’t Pay A Fair Share

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 12, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    Simply put we can’t afford to pay an increase in council tax as our income has not risen by that rate.

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