IFS attacks ‘absurd’ Tory pledge not to reform council tax – UK politics live | Politics

Tory pledge not to reform ‘increasingly absurd’ council tax system in England blocks levelling up, says IFS

The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank has published a damning assessment of the Conservative party’s decision to rule out reform of the way council tax operates in England in the next parliament. (See 9.28am.)

In the briefing, David Phillips, an associate director at the IFS, said:

The new ‘family home tax guarantee’ [the Tory term for its new pledge] would mean perpetuating the increasingly absurd situation whereby the council tax that households pay is based on the value of their property relative to others in England on 1 April 1991 – a third of a century ago, when Mikhail Gorbachev was President of the Soviet Union and Chesney Hawkes topped the charts with The One and Only.

Since this one and only valuation of houses, values have increased by massively different amounts around the country, meaning that at least half are now effectively in the ‘wrong band’. Households in the north and Midlands are often in too high a band – and pay too much – while those in London and its environs too low a band – and pay too little – compared to what they would under a modernised tax. In other words, in its current form council tax works against levelling up.

And here are three charts from the briefing that prove this point.

This one shows how people living in low-value homes have to pay much more in council tax, as a proportion of the value of their home, then people in expensive properties.

Cost of council tax as % of value of your home Photograph: IFS

This shows how, if council tax was now based on current property values, instead of 1990 values, people in most of the north of England and the Midlands would gain, because their homes have not risen in value over the last 30 years as much as properties in the south. But people in London would face a particularly big increase, and other people in the south or east of England might pay more too.

Winners and losers from potential council tax revaluation
Winners and losers from potential council tax revaluation Photograph: IFS

But the IFS is also in favour of reforming the system to make council tax proportional to the value of property. It set out the case for this in a report four years ago and this chart show how around seven out of 10 households – all but the richer ones – would gain from this approach.

Winners and losers from making council tax proportional to value
Winners and losers from making council tax proportional to value Photograph: IFS
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Key events

Robyn Vinter

Robyn Vinter

Two Liberal Democrat members have been arrested in Harrogate on suspicion of election offences after the party wrongly claimed the Greens had stood down in an election leaflet.

The leaflet was circulated in March ahead of a local government byelection in the Stray, Woodlands and Hookstone ward, and falsely stated “the Green’s (sic) have stood down this election”.

The Lib Dem candidate went on to win the Lib Dem-Tory marginal seat with 1,094 votes to the Conservatives’ 768 votes. The Green party had 376 votes. A local Green party source told the Guardian the Greens had not expected to win and the leaflet would not have changed the outcome of the byelection.

The two men were arrested on Tuesday and a police raid of the local Lib Dem office took place on Wednesday evening.

A North Yorkshire police spokesperson said:

A man aged in his 60s and a man aged in his 20s, both from the Harrogate area, were arrested on Tuesday 4 June 2024 in connection with an ongoing local election-related investigation. Following questioning, they have been released under investigation while enquiries continue.

The parliamentary constituency, Harrogate and Knaresborough, is also a Lib Dem-Tory marginal seat.

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Veterans minister rejects Starmer’s claim that some in military back Labour’s plan to repeal Troubles amnesty law

Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Keir Starmer has been challenged by veterans minister Johnny Mercer to back up a claim that there is opposition in the armed forces to the controversial law providing conditional amnesties to soldiers and others for Troubles-era crimes in Northern Ireland.

The controversial issue cropped up again as the Tories launched a suite of pledges aimed at veterans.

But there was welcome news for Starmer when a YouGov tracker today showed that Labour had eclipsed the Tories for the first time when it came to public views of which party would be best at handling defence on security.

Labour are now leading on this on 22%, ahead of the Tories on 21%.

Earlier this week Starmer was flanked by 10 ex-military Labour candidates as he insisted that party has fundamentally changed on national security.

One of those candidates, a former Royal Marines captain, is in a duel with Mercer for the Plymouth Moor View seat, which the latter won from Labour in 2015.

Labour are committed to repealing the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act 2023, which is strongly supported by Mercer on the grounds that it will stop the prosecution of veterans in relation to historic incidents from the Troubles. In an interview with the Guardian, Mercer took aim at Starmer, saying:

I think people can smell the authenticity, such as if you say you are now the party of veterans, but then that you are going to restart this horrific policy of prosecuting in Northern Ireland.

Drawing on his own experience of working in Northern Ireland as part of the peace process, Starmer said this week that it was a mistake to proceed with the amnesty plan when it was opposed by all of the political parties there. He added:

I would actually dispute that across the armed services that they are all against repealing the legislation because it provides an amnesty for all sides, including the terrorists, and I know that many people feel extremely uncomfortable about that.

The Tories made a series of pledges in a pitch for the support of veterans and their families today, including a new veterans bill, extending tax breaks for veterans’ employers. The law would also be changed to allow veterans’ ID to be used to vote in elections, a victory for Mercer after he had accused No 10 of stonewalling on the issue, but he refused to say whether student ID should also count.

Johnny Mercer. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/AFP/Getty Images
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The Conservatives are citing a Guardian story saying Labour is mulling over up to a dozen as-yet-unannounced revenue raising measures as proof that they are right to accuse Keir Starmer of wanting to raise tax.

Here is the story by Anna Isaac and Kiran Stacey.

In response, CCHQ issued a statement from Laura Trott, chief secretary to the Treasury, saying:

The prime minister warned this week that Keir Starmer would put up taxes on working families by £2,094 to fill Labour’s £38.5bn black hole. After spending two days accusing others of lying and ordering his team to dodge questions from the media, the truth has now emerged: he is secretly preparing more than 10 new tax rises later this year.

Keir Starmer has a long track record of breaking pledges. He thinks he can coast to victory with a blank cheque then pretend he has a mandate to raise taxes, raid pensions and impose a retirement tax. He now urgently needs to level with the British people about which taxes he wants to increase and by how much.

Laura Trott. Photograph: UK Parliament/PA
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Tory pledge not to reform ‘increasingly absurd’ council tax system in England blocks levelling up, says IFS

The Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank has published a damning assessment of the Conservative party’s decision to rule out reform of the way council tax operates in England in the next parliament. (See 9.28am.)

In the briefing, David Phillips, an associate director at the IFS, said:

The new ‘family home tax guarantee’ [the Tory term for its new pledge] would mean perpetuating the increasingly absurd situation whereby the council tax that households pay is based on the value of their property relative to others in England on 1 April 1991 – a third of a century ago, when Mikhail Gorbachev was President of the Soviet Union and Chesney Hawkes topped the charts with The One and Only.

Since this one and only valuation of houses, values have increased by massively different amounts around the country, meaning that at least half are now effectively in the ‘wrong band’. Households in the north and Midlands are often in too high a band – and pay too much – while those in London and its environs too low a band – and pay too little – compared to what they would under a modernised tax. In other words, in its current form council tax works against levelling up.

And here are three charts from the briefing that prove this point.

This one shows how people living in low-value homes have to pay much more in council tax, as a proportion of the value of their home, then people in expensive properties.

Cost of council tax as % of value of your home Photograph: IFS

This shows how, if council tax was now based on current property values, instead of 1990 values, people in most of the north of England and the Midlands would gain, because their homes have not risen in value over the last 30 years as much as properties in the south. But people in London would face a particularly big increase, and other people in the south or east of England might pay more too.

Winners and losers from potential council tax revaluation Photograph: IFS

But the IFS is also in favour of reforming the system to make council tax proportional to the value of property. It set out the case for this in a report four years ago and this chart show how around seven out of 10 households – all but the richer ones – would gain from this approach.

Winners and losers from making council tax proportional to value Photograph: IFS
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Tory chair Richard Holden rejects claim Basildon selection stitched up in his favour

Richard Holden, the Conservative party chair, has been selected as the party’s candidate in Basildon and Billericay, which in normal circumstances would be described as a safe Tory seat, after the association was invited to pick from a shortlist with only his name on it. His previous seat, North West Durham, has been abolished.

Last night, in an interview with Paul McNamara from Channel 4 News, Holden was asked if this was a stitch-up in his favour. He replied: “No.”

He also said that, under Tory rules, if a candidate has not been selected 72 hours before nominations close, only one name is put forward to the association. He said it had agreed to have him as the candidate unanimously.

“Was this a stitch up to make sure that you got a safe seat?” “No.”

EXCL: @PGMcNamara presses Chairman of the Conservative party Richard Holden as he tells @Channel4News he’s been agreed as the only Tory candidate for Basildon and Billericay. pic.twitter.com/z3WMQl7Je9

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) June 6, 2024

At the last election the Conservatives had a majority of 20,412 in Basildon and Billericay, where Holden is now the candidate. Boundary changes increase the notional majority there by about 300 votes.

According to the latest YouGov MRP poll, the Tories are still on course to beat Labour there, but only by 36% to 34%.

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Sunak criticised for missing international D-Day commemoration event

Rishi Sunak has been criticised for missing the major international ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, PA Media reports. PA says:

The prime minister has attended events in Normandy including speaking at the major British ceremony, but has not been present alongside leaders including France’s Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden at the international gathering this afternoon. Keir Starmer is mingling with world leaders at the Omaha Beach event.

With election campaign in full swing, the Tory leader is heading back to the UK.

A Tory source played down the diplomatic impact of the prime minster’s absence, pointing out he will see Macron, Biden, German chancellor Olaf Scholz and other key leaders at the G7 summit in Italy next week.

But Nigel Farage, whose announcement this week that he is standing in the election came as a blow to Sunak, criticised the move.

The Reform UK leader tweeted: “The prime minister has ducked out of the international D-Day event to fly back to the UK to campaign. I am here in Normandy in a personal capacity because I think it matters. Does he?”

The Prime Minister has ducked out of the international D-Day event to fly back to the UK to campaign.

I am here in Normandy in a personal capacity because I think it matters. Does he?

— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) June 6, 2024

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Green party proposes spending £50bn more per year on health and social care, funded by wealth tax and other tax rises

The Green party has called for a wealth tax, and other radical tax reforms, to allow spending on health and social care to rise by more than £50bn a year by the end of the decade.

Announcing the party’s plans, Adrian Ramsay, the Green co-leader, said the Greens were the only party being honest about the scale of the problem, and the tax increases that would be needed to address it.

Our NHS is at breaking point following 14 years of underfunding. Patients are stuck in hospital corridors, people can’t see their GP or NHS dentist when they need to and staff are severely overstretched.

Greens believe passionately in the NHS and we are the only party to be honest with the public that it’s going to cost money to nurse the NHS back to health after 14 years of Conservative damage.

Not just by shifting a small pot around, but by asking the very richest in our society to pay a modest amount more in tax to fund the investment we need to nurse the NHS back to health.

Our plans are credible, deliverable and fully funded.

The Greens say their plans would deliver an extra £30bn a year for the NHS in England by 2030. This would fund measures including a “fair wage” pay rise for health workers, giving everyone access to an NHS dentist, and ensuring that people in urgent need can get a same-day GP appointment.

There would also be an extra £20bn a year for social care in England by the end of the decade, intended to provide people with free personal care, as is already available in Scotland.

In an interview with the BBC, Ramsay said full details of how the plan would be funded would be set out in the party’s manifesto next week.

But he said the party published a document at the time of the budget saying how it would raise an extra £50bn a year. He said there were three main measures:

1) A wealth tax, set at 1% on assets over £10m, and 2% on assets over £1bn. This would raise at least £16bn, Ramsay said.

2) Reforming capital gains tax, so that it is levied at the same rate as income tax.

3) Increasing the scope of the windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

According to the document published in March, the Greens would also reform national insurance, applying it to investment income as well as employment income, and removing the upper earnings limit so that high earners pay more.

Adrian Ramsay Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images
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Tories to pledge homicide law overhaul with US-style classifications

Rishi Sunak will reportedly pledge an overhaul of homicide laws, introducing US-style classifications for murder and increasing sentences, as part of the Conservative manifesto, Hayden Vernon reports.

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Libby Brooks

Libby Brooks

With John Swinney in France for the D-Day commemorations, Kate Forbes, Scotland’s deputy first minister, stood in at FMQs at Holyrood today – but she didn’t offer any further clarity on the SNP’s energy policy.

At the STV election debate on Monday Swinney repeatedly failed to answer a direct question about whether he supports new licences. Swinney said he was “in favour of working with the oil and gas sector” and that there would be a “climate of compatibility test on every single decision we take on the oil and gas sector”.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, pressed Forbes on the SNP position. She said she was “very clear” while continuing not to be clear, telling MSPs:

Our position is clear, we will back the north east, back workers and intend to achieve our climate change aims.

Forbes also managed to wrap in a dig about David Duguid, telling Ross he had “betrayed … a candidate who is currently recovering from ill health”. (See 9.53am.)

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Almost half Britons think things in UK ‘much worse’ than when Tories took power in 2010, poll suggests

“Vote Tory because we’ve got a good record on LGBT+ rights.” That is not a slogan anyone at CCHQ seems to have proposed, and instead ministers have been happy to antagonise the LGBT+ lobby with announcements that suggests they are willing to curtail trans rights as a culture war issue.

But, perhaps surprisingly, YouGov polling out this morning suggests that, of 21 issues included in the survery, gay, lesbian and bisexual rights is the area where people think things have most improved since 2020. And it is also the only area where people think there has been clear improvement.

The finding partly reflects that fact that the coalition government passed a law in 2013 to allow same-sex marriage. It was controversial at the time, but now there is no one in mainstream politics calling for its repeal. But it is also indicative of how social attitudes have changed enormously on gay rights over the past decade.

Polling on what has got better or worse since 2010 Photograph: YouGov

The full findings are dire for the Conservatives. They suggest 73% of Britons think things in the UK are worse than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010, and almost half (46%) think thinks are much worse.

Polling on state of Britain Photograph: YouGov
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The SNP has said the Scottish Conservative party’s decision to block former Scotland Office minister David Duguid at the last minute from standing as a candidate (see 9.53am) shows “the nasty party just got nastier”.

Stewart Hosie, the SNP’s campaign chief, said:

This is a day of shame for the Tories, with three-jobs Douglas Ross taking a seat from David Duguid to keep his third salary at Westminster.

The way the Tories have treated Mr Duguid is indefensible. The nasty party just got nastier.

People in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East deserve a dedicated, full time MP and local champion. That’s what SNP candidate Seamus Logan will be.

Hosie was referring to the fact that Ross is MSP for Highlands and Islands, was (until parliament dissolved) MP for Moray, and also works as a football assistant referee.

UPDATE: I have amended the final sentence to say the third job Hosie was referring to was Ross’s work as an assistant referee, not his being party leader.

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Rachel Reeves under pressure from shadow ministers to raise capital gains tax to revive public services

Rachel Reeves is under pressure from Labour shadow ministers to raise capital gains tax as part of an autumn budget at which the shadow chancellor is considering up to a dozen new revenue-raising measures. Anna Isaac and Kiran Stacey have the story.

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