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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 September 2005, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Council tax 'climbdown' attacked
Houses
Property values in England are already being reviewed
The government has been accused of a "massive climbdown" after it emerged the revaluation of homes for council tax in England could be delayed.

The BBC understands the Cabinet is to discuss a delay until after an inquiry, due to finish before 2006, which could halt big rises for many households.

A Tory spokeswoman said ministers were in "total disarray over the issue".

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said any statements would be made at the appropriate time.

Senior ministers fear revaluation would prove politically damaging for Labour.

'Logic in deferring'

Every home in Wales was revalued last year, with a third moving up at least one valuation band and 8% moving down.

But it is understood by the BBC that a delay will be discussed by the Cabinet in the coming weeks.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, Labour vice-chair of the Local Government Association (LGA), said he could see the sense in delay, as long as it was not an indefinite one.

"I can see a logic in deferring the valuation until the Lyons review - the major review that is going on into local government finance - is completed," he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

"Then you have one set of changes instead of two. What I would not be very happy with is if the whole issue had been kicked into the long grass."

The government has shown great weakness to cave in ahead of their review
Conservative spokeswoman

The review of property values of all houses in England is already under way, and the official value of all homes in England is due to be updated by 2007.

But ministers are considering whether to put the whole exercise on hold - at least until Sir Michael Lyons completes his independent inquiry into local government funding at the end of this year.

Conservative spokeswoman Caroline Spelman said: "This is a massive government climbdown in the face of Conservative opposition to council tax revaluation.

"The first stage of the battle has been won - but not until the Lyons' review is heard will we know if the war is over.

"The government has shown great weakness to cave in ahead of their review, and are clearly in total disarray over the issue."

Backlash

It has been 14 years since the last valuation and property prices have risen sharply since, particularly in London and the South East.

At present, council tax is calculated on the basis of eight bands, with owners in a top-rate band H property paying twice as much as people on band D.

All 22 million English homes were due to be rebanded, based on their value on 1 April this year, with new designations being revealed next September and the changes taking effect in 2007.

But Labour faces a backlash from householders, many of whom would be getting higher bills next April, just before council elections across the capital.

HAVE YOUR SAY
My council tax has gone up 49% in 3 years and I have received nothing in return
Mike, Preston Lancs

The Conservatives oppose the revaluation while the Liberal Democrats want council tax to be scrapped.

Liberal Democrats spokesperson Sarah Teather said: "The only answer is to get rid of the tax altogether and replace it with something based on your ability to pay, a local income tax."

Chairman of the LGA Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said a fairer system needed to be introduced.

He told Five Live the council tax system had been used to fund a big increase in government spending - such as on education and social care.

Meanwhile, he said, local authorities were receiving less in central grants, leaving council tax payers to make up the shortfall.




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