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Kent County Council members call on the government to scrap 'appalling' council tax system

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The government has been urged to scrap the country's "appalling" council tax system by Kent county councillors.

England's council tax rates have been based on the value of homes since April 1991, a year after the poll tax riots in the final term of Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister.

KCC leader Cllr Roger Gough (Con)
KCC leader Cllr Roger Gough (Con)

Nearly 30 years on, Kent County Council's leader Roger Gough (Con) has described the way council tax is calculated as "regressive" and has vowed to write to Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick calling for a shake-up to the eight-band system.

However, a spokesman for Mr Jenrick's office said: "We have no plans to reform council tax through a revaluation or changes to the banding system.

"A revaluation would be expensive to undertake and could result in increases in bills for many households."

This comes after 70 councillors at County Hall called for urgent action at an online meeting last week, where a 5% council tax rise was agreed from April, paying towards an enormous £1.1billion budget.

Faversham county councillor Antony Hook (Lib Dem), who proposed a letter be sent to Mr Jenrick, described the current system as "out of date" and "unfair".

Lib Dem Cllr Antony Hook
Lib Dem Cllr Antony Hook

The Kent barrister pointed out that Band H householders living in a £614,000 home pay the same rate of tax as people living in a £5million house.

Meanwhile, he said Band A households, whose homes are worth less than £84,000, pay two-thirds of what someone living in a Band D property pays.

Cllr Hook added: "Council tax is an appalling method of raising taxation. It takes no account of ability to pay.

"There is no way to avoid it by tightening your belt. Around the world there are many alternative forms of taxations. All should be carefully studied."

In response, Cllr Gough and most of his 63-strong Conservative group gave their public support, along with members of the Labour and Green parties.

"When it was announced 30 years ago, I did not expect it to be unchanged for three decades."

At Thursday's budget meeting, Cllr Gough also announced a rebate of £50 to anyone already in receipt of a council tax discount and said there would be an injection of cash to district councils to help with their hardship funds.

KCC's leader said: "All of us would recognise the deficiencies in the current council tax system.

"I think we would all wish to see this council and its services funded in a much more diverse way and one that was less regressive.”

Labour's Cllr Barry Lewis, of Margate, supporting the motion, said: "The council tax system was brought in as a quick fix to the disastrous poll tax.

"When it was announced 30 years ago, I did not expect it to be unchanged for three decades."

However, the government has strongly defended its position.

Whitehall chiefs say they have provided £670m of grants to councils across England to reduce local authority bills, from April, for those least able to pay and hit hard by Covid.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Local Government said: "We continue to keep the position of councils under close review, as we have done throughout the pandemic.”

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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