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1990: One in five yet to pay poll tax

One in five people in England and Wales had paid nothing towards their community charge - or poll tax - by the end of June, a survey has revealed.

The survey carried out for the BBC is the most comprehensive so far.

It is based on information from three quarters of all authorities in England and Wales.

And it concludes that next year's poll tax bills could be more than 40 higher per adult because of the non-payment.

The first poll tax bills went out in April and replaced the rates system which critics say was fairer than the new charge.

Protests against the new charge culminated in violent rioting in central London in April.

Most non-payers are to be found in urban areas with 27% of Londoners yet to pay a penny.

A quarter of those liable for poll tax in the south-west, east Midlands and north-west of England have also yet to make a payment.

Experts say the level of defaulting bodes ill for next year with councils nationally facing a deficit of up to 1.7bn.

Environment secretary Chris Patten has already won an extra 3.3bn for government grants to councils next year in an effort to keep the average bill below 400.

But many local authorities may still be faced with the choice of either increasing the poll tax or cutting back spending on services such as health and education.

However, the government remains confident that councils will collect a lot more of the money owed before the end of the financial year.

A government spokesman said at this time last year 30% of rate payers had yet to make a payment.

In Context
The community charge - more commonly known as the poll tax - was a fixed payment for all adults to their local authority.

In 1990 it replaced the rates system which was paid by all residential property owners based on the value of their home.

The unpopularity of the new charge led to the poll tax riots in London in March 1990 and - indirectly - to the downfall of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the November of the same year.

Under the new Conservative Prime Minister John Major the poll tax was replaced by the council tax in 1993.

The new tax reverted to a sliding scale of payments but was still payable by all adults.


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