Published: 19:38, 24 February 2021
| Updated: 19:40, 24 February 2021
Council tax payers in Kent would save hundreds of pounds if the government adopted reforms that campaigners say would be fairer to hard pressed families.
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The issue of increases in household bills dominated Prime Minister's Questions today with Labour leader Keir Starmer clashing with Boris Johnson over which councils were charging the most.
Pressure on the government to reform the system has grown as virtually all councils have - as in other years - agreed inflation breaking increases in the council tax.
Councils have complained that Covid-19 has dramatically reduced the income they forecast, adding to pressure on already-stretched budgets.
KentOnline has revealed how the cash crisis facing local authorities has seen them draw on millions of pounds of reserves to try to cushion the impact.
The campaign group Fairer Share wants a new system it claims would save those in lower property bands potentially hundreds of pounds.
It is promoting an alternative scheme, the Proportional Property Tax (PPT), a single flat rate tax charged annually at 0.48% of a property’s value. So for example, a property valued at £200,000 would pay £960 each year. Those in valuable properties will have any increase capped at £1,200 per year on what is currently paid.
Fairer Share says the existing system, which depends on how much your house cost in 1991, is skewed against poorer families who pay disproportionately more in their bills.
Andrew Dixon, chairman of Fairer Share, said: “The Prime Minister has said he is committed to levelling-up the country, but this agenda is clearly being undermined by loopy and lopsided council tax rates.
A breakdown by parliamentary constituency shows 73% of households in the parliamentary constituency of Canterbury in the lower property bands A to D would benefit to the tune of a £200 reduction.
In the County town of Maidstone, an estimated 72% of residents in homes in those bands would see average bills tumble by as much as £350.
But in some areas, there would be less gain - in Dartford less than half of bill payers would be better off with an estimated average savings of £150 per household.
In the Medway constituency of Gillingham and Rainham, 56% of those whose homes are in Band A to D would pay £150 less.
In South Thanet, one of Kent’s poorest areas, household bills for an estimated 73% occupying property bands A to D would see their bill fall by £350 on average.
The debate over council tax reform comes ahead of crucial council elections in May, by which time residents will already have received this year’s bill.
In Kent, the county council’s ruling Conservative administration has controversially set a 5% increase in bills but has agreed with other parties to write to local government minister Robert Jenrick urging a review.