Publications and Reports

Public Reports about Council Tax and Local Government

There seems to be an endless supply of reports from various sources that discuss problems with the current Council Tax system, and many put forward recommendations for reform.  However, there does not appear to be any serious desire by the Government to address any of the issues raised.
On this page is a small selection of reports that should be of interest to you if you are a council tax payer.

Audit Commission - How local authorities are responding to the 2008/09 recession.

The Audit Commission are producing a series of reports that look at how local councils are responding to the effects of the recession.

Crunch time?  The impact of the economic downturn on local government finances
This report was released in December 2008 by the Audit Commission.  Despite recent scare stories, councils are well placed to ride out the immediate effects of the credit crunch.  The watchdog today published a study of council finances which shows that most local authorities anticipated the increased costs, and loss of income to some extent.  The research, Crunch Time?, also shows they have adequate reserves to cushion the estimated GBP 2.5 billion impact, and are taking action to cut costs.
Crunch Time?  Released December 2008

When it comes to the crunch.  How councils are responding to the recession
The report finds that local and national government have made a positive initial response to the recession, but it warns that councils should prepare for worsening social impact as unemployment rises.  Demand for benefits, welfare and help with debt are growing, and social problems such as domestic violence and mental ill-health are expected to follow as the recession deepens.
When it comes to the crunch.  Released August 2009

The Balance of Power: Central and Local Government

This report was released in May 2009 by the Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC).  It looks at who is best placed to make decisions locally.  In general, the CLGC recommends that local government should be given more decision making responsibilities and that central government needs to step back from the 'one approach fits all' mentality. Read more...

Power to promote well-being of the area

Statutory guidance for councils published February 2009 by the Communities and Local Government Committee(CLGC).  The Local Government white paper 2006, Strong and Communities, recognised that, as the first tier of local government, local councils have a vital role to play in improving local services and invigorating local democracy.  :The Government has worked closely with the local council sector on the suite of measures relating to parishes in part 4 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 (the 2007 Act).  These reforms provide the statutory underpinning to help increase the capacity of local councils to deliver better public services and represent their communities’ interests. Local people via local councils will have more say and ownership over how their communities are run and managed. Read more...

Regional winners and losers in UK public finances

This report was released in September 2008 and presents the findings from research undertaken by Oxford Economics that shows how, in addition to Council Tax, the South East makes the biggest net contribution to UK public finances. Read more...

Tougher at the Top?

This report was released in July 2008 and presents the findings from research undertaken by the Audit Commission into the cost of turnover in local councils' Chief Executives and whether there is really any real benefit in terms of improvement within teh local authority. Read more...

Escape from Council Tax

This white paper by the New Government Local Network (NLGN) an independent thinktank, puts forward a different way of reforming council tax.  It retains a lower property tax and looks at using a portion of income tax and VAT as hypothecated taxes for local government spending only.  It also states that "Council tax bills have no connection to the actual price of homes".
Furthermore, one of the main complaints against the current system is that it is not based on ability to pay; many people today live in a property that they could not afford to buy again at today's prices.  Their income bears no relation to the price of their home.  The NLGN does seem to be thinking in the same way as council tax payers do.  At last some common sense thinking that's worth reading. Read more...

The Review of Policing

This report was released in February 2008 and looks at how our police service needs to change.  A Green Paper is due in the spring that may include many of the recommendations.  One of the most controversial recommendations (Recommendation 5) proposes a change to the funding formula that would have a significant impact on some police authorities, but more disturbingly, the removal of capping powers.  With no capping power, police authorities could increase their council tax precept by any amount.  Read more...   Terms of Reference.
Further information is available from the Home Office website

Audit Commission - Positively Charged

This report was released in January 2008 and presents the findings from research, undertaken by the Audit Commission during 2007, into councils' use of their powers to charge for services.  It states that 'It will be of particular interest to councillors, in both their executive decision making and scrutiny roles, and to finance and service managers with responsibility for the implementation of councils' approaches to charging.'
We suggest that it will also be of particular interest to all local residents who are the people who are, and will be, paying these charges.
Interestingly, paragraph 75 on page 39 acknowledges that 'their ability to pay - how charges relate to an individual's level of disposable income.'  It's a pity that the Council Tax system doesn't acknowledge this!  Read more...

Councillors Commission - Representing the Future

This report caused quite a storm in the press when it was released in December 2007.  One of the most controversial recommendations was to pay Councillors who got voted out of office ('rewarded for failure').  Essentially, this report is all about increasing the cost of Councillors at the taxpayers' expense.

Read the reports by the Telegraph or Evening Standard or download the full report here.

The Scale and Impact of Migration at the Local Level

This report, written by the Institute of Community Cohesion for the LGA and published in 2007 looks at the impact of migration on local services. Read more...

South East Taken for Granted

Issued in September 2007 and written by Local Government Futures Ltd and Oxford Economics Ltd, this report argues that a fair deal for the South East is now due.  This is a well written, balanced and easy to understand report that shows quite clearly how the South East is getting a raw deal from the Exchequer. Read more...

White Paper - Strong and Prosperous Communities

Issued in October 2006 and with a foreward by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who said that:

  1. It proposes a new approach to local partnership to give local authorities more opportunity to lead their area, work with other services and better meet the public’s needs
  2. It sets out the important contribution of our cities to the economic health of our communities. We want the offer of greater power to cities and city-regions matched by stronger governance and accountability at that level
  3. It puts in place a more streamlined and proportionate performance regime which commits the Government to a radical simplification of the existing system and a massive reduction in the number of targets for local partners
  4. It will strengthen local leadership everywhere, building stability and accountability to citizens through new executive arrangements including council leaders with four year terms and making it easier to opt for directly elected mayors or executives
  5. It will give more power to citizens and communities to have a bigger say in the services they receive and the places where they live.  And it will strengthen the role of the thousands of local councillors who are at the front line of local democracy and community engagement

The White Paper is issued in two volumes as follows:
Volume 1 (176 pages)
Volume 2 (63 pages)

Council Tax (New Valuation Lists for England) Act 2006

The Act removes the current requirements in the Local Government Finance Act 1992 ("the 1992 Act") for there to be a revaluation of domestic properties, in England, for council tax purposes on 1 April 2007 and then at intervals of not more than 10 years.  These requirements are replaced with a power for the Secretary of State to set the date of the first revaluation and of further revaluations. The Secretary of State will specify by order, for England, the year in which each new valuation list must be compiled (that is to say, the year in which a revaluation must take place).  The new list will always be required to be compiled on the 1 April in the specified year.  The orders will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure in the House of Commons. Read more...

Rising Cost of Council Tax for Pensioners

This report by the Halifax Building Society shows how the relentless year on year inflation busting increases really does impact the pensioner group.  In areas where the percentage of pensioner occupants is higher, Council Tax increases have also been higher. Read more...

Options for Local Government Finance: An Economic Approach

This report for the County Councils Network looks at possible reforms that could help to improve local taxation, and therefore make it more acceptable.  Issued in October 2005 it was written by two respected economists and gives a balanced view of options available.  The report is not too long and is well worth reading. Read more...

Beyond the Black Hole

Issued by the Local Government Association in 2005.  This is a pre budget report that highlights two fundamental problems:

  1. The Council Tax system is flawed and needs to be replaced with a fairer means of funding Local Government.
  2. The Government has instructed Councils to do more and spend more without providing an equivalent increase in funding.

Read more...

Independent Review of Public Sector Efficiency

This review by Sir Peter Gershon CBE in July 2004 looked at making efficiency savings in the public sector.  The report recommendations were fed into the Public Spending Review of 2004.  The main highlights of the report were:

  1. £20 billion in annual efficiency gains by 2007-08 across the whole of the public sector
  2. Gross reductions in the Civil Service and military posts in administrative and support roles of over 84,000 by April 2008, of which 13,500 posts will be reallocated to front-line activities
  3. Departments are also committed to relocating over 20,000 posts outside London and the South East by 2010
  4. Each departmental Secretary of State will be ultimately responsible and accountable for delivering efficiencies within their department, its NDPBs, agencies and relevant parts of the wider public sector

The report was commissioned by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. Read more...

The Impact of Council Tax on Older Peoples' Income

This report by the New Policy Institute for Help The Aged was issued in 2003.  It shows that the rate of increase in Council Tax far outstrips both earnings and prices by up to 100%, and is therefore a significant burden to older people, who tend to have to live on modest incomes. Read more...

Council Tax Increases 2003/04

This report by the Audit Commission asks the question "Why were they so high?".  This was the year when the average rise was 12.9%!  The Government knew that this was going to happen but did nothing to prevent it. Read more...

Council Tax - The Case for Reform

This report by the New Policy Institute was originally commissioned by the Public and Commercial Services Union and the Local Government Information Unit.  Although it was published in October 1999, many of the arguments are still valid today. Read more...


 

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