Mole denies council tax rumours

IN the week that voters throughout Britain are going to the polls, the government is expected to deny claims that household bills could rise steeply with changes to the council tax system.

IN the week that voters throughout Britain are going to the polls, the government is expected to deny claims that household bills could rise steeply with changes to the council tax system.

There were weekend reports that the government was planning to extend a new system of raising money that is currently being introduced in Northern Ireland across the country and could have seen household bills in some places increase substantially.

In Northern Ireland the government is charging householders 0.78 per cent of the value of their homes for council services - if that was the rate set by councils in Suffolk the likely bills for many households would be higher than they pay at present.

However Ipswich Labour MP Chris Mole, who is parliamentary private secretary to Local Government minister Phil Woolas, said there were no plans to extend the Northern Ireland system across the country.

He said: “In Northern Ireland rates have remained until now, and this change is being introduced as a direct replacement to them.

“The situation in England and Wales is different - Sir Michael Lyons is looking at alternative ways of raising money for councils but there have been no firm proposals yet.

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“I'm sure the situation in Northern Ireland will be noted, but it's not a test bed for the rest of the country as it was when the Tories introduced the poll tax into Scotland before extending it to England and Wales.”

The leader of Ipswich council, Liz Harsant, said any attempt to link council fees directly to the value of homes would be very expensive to introduce.

She said: “When the government brought in council tax bands they were very general, and that was quite costly - if you tried to value every home in the country it would be hugely expensive.

“I don't know if it would be any fairer than the current way of calculating council tax - there have been some big errors over the last few years,” she added.

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