Labour rules out changes to council tax bands


Labour has ruled out changing council tax bands after continuing scrutiny about the party’s tax plans.

Over the weekend, Conservatives seized on shadow health secretary Wes Streeting’s refusal to deny Labour government would copy council tax changes instituted by the Labour-run Welsh government.

But pushed for clarification on Times Radio, Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth said: “We’re not changing council tax banding.”

As we head into the second half of the election campaign Conservative tactics are becoming clear.

A blizzard of policy announcements has not shifted the polls so now the Conservatives are relentlessly attacking Labour’s economic policy, trying to force them to rule out one tax rise after another.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has stated that Labour “don’t want to see the tax burden on working people increase”.

The party has already gone much further than Tony Blair did in 1997. His manifesto just promised no increase in the basic and top rates of income tax.

It also stuck to the Tories’ spending plans for two years.

Going into this election Sir Keir Starmer ruled out rises in the rates of income tax, VAT, national insurance and corporation tax.

He was asked in a Panorama interview last week whether he would repeat that pledge for Capital Gains Tax (CGT).

Sir Keir reiterated Labour’s pledge that none of his plans required tax rises beyond those already announced and that the manifesto was fully costed.

But that line was soon hardened up to a guarantee that people selling their main home would not pay CGT.

Something similar has now happened over council tax.

Current council tax banding in England, unchanged since 1991, has been criticized for not reflecting soaring house prices. Critics argue it favours wealthier property owners.

The Labour-run Welsh government plans to overhaul the council tax system in Wales in 2028.

Homes in Wales were revalued over the last 12-months, creating new property bands that could raise council tax for over 470,000 homes and reduce it for about 800,000 households.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps accused Labour of secretly planning to copy the scheme to pay for “unfunded spending promises”.

“Once you start getting into the details, we know they plan to reband the council tax as they have done where Labour runs things in Wales,” he told BBC Radio’s Today programme.

Mr Ashworth described Conservative claims as “more nonsense from an increasingly desperate Tory campaign, probably the most desperate Tory campaign I’ve seen in my lifetime”.

Separately on Monday, Mr Shapps said he was a “realist” and would not “try and pretend black is white” by claiming the Conservatives are on course for victory.

He told Times Radio it was “possible [for the Conservatives] to win the election”, but conceded it is “not the most likely outcome”, adding: “I’m a realist.”

Asked if a Tory victory is unlikely, he replied: “I think that’s the realistic position, isn’t it? I mean, I live in the real world. So, you know, let’s not try and pretend black is white.”

So why are the Conservatives adopting this strategy?

Labour says the focus on tax is a sign of how “desperate” the Tory campaign is, but Conservative insiders think they’re planting doubt in voters’ minds over Keir Starmer’s economic policy and limiting his room for manoeuvre if he becomes prime minister.

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