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Political Parties Agree We Are At a ‘Crisis Point’ in Local Government Funding

Published on: 20 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 21 Mar, 2024

By Emily Dalton

local democracy reporter

Parties from across the spectrum called on the next government to change its funding model for local councils, claiming it is “not fit for purpose”.

Cllr Robert Evans

Cllr Robert Evans (Labour, Spelthorne) told Surrey County Council (SCC) it should call on the next government to bring in a “fairer and robust system to replace council tax”.  He put forward the motion at Surrey’s full council meeting on Tuesday, March 19.

Introduced in 1993, council tax is based on 30-year-old property valuations (from 1991). This is not affected by changes in house prices or how much the property is worth today.

Average house prices in Surrey have risen over 400 per cent, from £103,569 in January 1995 to £525,897 in December 2023.

Tim Oliver – Leader of Surrey County Council

Leader of the county council Tim Oliver (Conservative, Weybridge) said the issues are not party-political, but “local government vs central government”. He added: “Everything should be put on the table. We are now at a crisis point within the local government and we need to do something different.”

Wage inflation, general inflation and soaring demands in adult social care and child services have squeezed council budgets, exceeding the income received from central government. The Local Government Association (LGA) found councils have suffered a 27 per cent real-terms cut in core spending power since 2010.

Council tax for Surrey residents will increase a further 4.99 per cent from April, as the county leader claims £1.2bn net is needed for the council. Around 70 per cent of SCC’s budget is spent on social care. With Surrey’s older demographic and ageing population, the demands on care are likely to increase.

Deputy leader for bankrupt Woking Borough Council, Cllr Will Forster (Liberal Democrats) said: “When there is so much cross-party consensus, in and out of the political spectrum, I think something is up.”

Cllr Will Forster

Cllr Forster said as a “ridiculous comparison” , Buckingham Palace, valued at £1bn, sits in Band H and pays just over £1,800 council tax, which is equivalent to a Band B property in Surrey.

In the short-term, Cllr Evans suggested the government could introduce new council tax bands “so the wealthy in larger homes could contribute a fairer percentage of their income to Surrey”.

He also suggested as a long-term proposal, to replace council tax, stamp duty and the bedroom tax with a “proportional property tax based on property values updated annually”. Another “more radical” option would be a land tax as land or a site itself- not the buildings or anything on it would be valued.

Discussions on local government funding were extended to include reforming business rates and highways funding. Speculative options also mentioned a local levy on fuel duty and petrol stations, airport tax, tourists charges, increased fines in breaches of highway rules.

The motion was resolved that SCC would lobby the next government, following the General Election, to overhaul local council funding.

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Responses to Political Parties Agree We Are At a ‘Crisis Point’ in Local Government Funding

  1. John Perkins Reply

    March 21, 2024 at 7:46 am

    These politicians agree that “something must be done” about local government funding, but all they want is more money.

    The two representing socialist parties suggest slightly different ways of charging home owners according to how many deck chairs they own or can use, claiming that will make it fairer.

    Meanwhile, the pseudo-socialist party representative doesn’t make any suggestion, limiting himself to declaring that more money is needed because people become more expensive to maintain as they get older.

    Not one of them offers any apology for past failures or any genuinely radical ideas for the future.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 21, 2024 at 9:21 am

    The issues of Local Government funding had been examined by the National Audit Office in 2021. You will find the report in

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