Council tax still calculated using 24-year-old data for homes

Council tax for new homes is used by estimating what they would have been worth in 1991

Council tax for new homes is used by estimating what they would have been worth in 1991 - Credit: Archant

Council tax bills for homes across the region will be landing on doorsteps over the next few days – but while the sums charged have gone up over the last quarter of a century, the basis of the calculation has remained unchanged since 1991.

The council tax bands that decide how much an individual property is charged have remained unchanged since they were introduced by Michael Heseltine in the wake of the poll tax debacle.

They are based on property values from that year – and have never been revalued to current prices.

Therefore a Band A property is defined as being worth up to £40,000 on April 1, 1991, a Band B property was worth between £40,000 and £52,000 on that date, and Band H (the highest) was for property valued at more than £320,000.

The government decreed that Band D (£68,000 to £88,000) should be the “average” property – but in Suffolk by far the most numerous banding in every council district is Band B.

In Ipswich 68% of the properties are in Bands A and B.

However while the politicians accept that the council tax bands probably should be updated, they acknowledge that such a move would be unpopular – and that there is no real need for a change.

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Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said: “It’s probably the least worst option. I don’t think there’s a real call for a revaluation at the moment – although there is a pressing case to look again at business rates.

“They do need revaluing, especially for retailers.

“The business rates at the moment are very unfair to shops as opposed to online retailers – that needs to be addressed.”

Suffolk Coastal council leader Ray Herring felt that in an ideal world there would be a revaluation of council tax bands, but such a move would be expensive and would be bound to upset some people who found their bills increase significantly.

He said: “I don’t think this is a major issue for most people, so I can see why the government is leaving things alone at the moment.”

And Ipswich Borough Council’s Labour leader David Ellesmere said that although the rates were based on property values 24 years ago, they provided a useful yardstick today – council tax bands for new properties are based on similar-sized homes that have already had their payments decided.

He said it was also important to note that urban councils like Ipswich had a higher proportion of small homes than rural districts where there are more larger properties.