Westminster City Council has welcomed the proposals put forward by the Communities and Local Government (DCLG) Secretary Eric Pickles today, which aim to provide councils with greater flexibility to keep their council tax rates down.
Of particular interest was the proposal to remove the council tax relief available on second homes and empty homes, which would enable councils to reinvest the money saved to keep overall council tax bills down. Currently, second homes receive a 10% to 50% discount, whilst there are a range of discounts of up to 100% for empty homes.
Westminster City Council’s own four-year freeze on council tax has already saved residents an average total of £108.00 each by keeping council tax rates well below the rate of inflation; a Band D property owner currently pays £377. 80, however this would have risen to £422.89 in 2011 if the rate had been increased in line with the average rate of inflation.
In the same period, national council tax rates for Band D properties have jumped from £1,321 in 2007 to £1,439, representing a 9% rise and an average cost of £118.00, making Westminster’s council tax rates amongst the lowest in the country.
Councillor Philippa Roe, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance said:
“With inflation currently at 5.2% – its highest rate since September 2008 – and gas and electricity prices rising by almost 10% in the past month, these measures will provide some welcome relief for hard working families in Westminster that have seen the cost of living dramatically rise.
“Westminster Council is committed to ensuring that it delivers the best value for money to its residents. The opportunity to reinvest money saved through the new proposals reflects the work of the City Finance Commission of which Westminster is a partner, which seeks to promote local business growth through the reinvestment of business rates back into the area.
“We will be submitting our response to the consultation and look forward to working with CLG to take these proposals forward.“