Tories urge Labour to rule out scrapping council tax referenda

Labour should rule out scrapping referenda on council tax hikes, the Conservatives have said.

The party claimed the fact that Labour had not committed in its manifesto to keeping the referendum rules suggested it would “ditch” them in power.

Under the current rules, Parliament can set a limit on council tax increases, which is 4.99% this year.

If a local authority wishes to increase tax above that level, it must hold a referendum first.

The Conservatives have committed to keeping this rule in place if they retain power at the General Election, but the Labour manifesto does not mention the referenda.

Labour described the claims as “hysterical” and “desperate”, but Michael Gove insisted the party should commit to keeping council tax referenda.

Labour's Jonathan Ashworth said his party was not planning to change council tax bands
Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said his party was not planning to change council tax bands (James Manning/PA)

The Communities Secretary said: “We are simply holding Labour to the standard they set for themselves.

“If they can rule out higher taxes in one area, they should be able to rule out letting councils increase taxes on hardworking families.

“If Labour wanted to rule out these taxes on your home, they would.”

The average rate of council tax for a band D property has risen 24.1% since 2019/20 and 53.5% since Labour was last in power in 2009/10.

In broadcast interviews on Monday morning, Labour’s shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said Labour would not change council tax banding, adding there was “nothing in our manifesto which requires additional taxes on working people”.

Recent days have seen Labour come under pressure from the Conservatives to rule out a series of tax increases including levying capital gains tax on people’s main homes and rebanding council tax, both policies the party has ruled out.

A Labour spokesperson said: “This is a hysterical, desperate attempt from a Conservative campaign in chaos at the revelation their own Chancellor says the Tory manifesto is unfunded.

“Jeremy Hunt admitted their £12 billion welfare plans were not new, the money has been spent, leaving the Tory manifesto shredded.”

Rishi Sunak told reporters on Monday it was “not true” that the money had already been spent, saying the savings had not been included in the most recent independent forecasts.