Pay less for your Council Tax each month
Your eyes deceive you not. Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles will announce today that in future, you will be able to pay less Council Tax each month, the only catch being that you will need to pay it for more months. That’s right, in addition to the current ten-month instalment option, which gives you a month off paying your bill in February and March (which is exactly when everyone needs some spare cash, none of this nonsense about December or January), you will now be able to pay a smaller instalment in each of twelve months as well. Looks like the Councils have finally worked out how to divide by 12.
In a statement expected today, Mr Pickles is also expected to announce no plans for a threatened Granny tax for home with an annex or garden flat and to reiterate that no rebanding, the like of which lifted a third of Welsh homeowners in 2005, until at least 2015.
The Government is hoping that this will make it easier for people on fixed incomes, particularly pensioners, to manage their payments. Mr Pickles told The Daily Telegraph: "This is a move to help 'middle England', and hard–pressed families up and down the country through these tough times." However, the move is not likely to impress Vince Cable, whose party were hoping for reforms to Council Tax and a serious consideration of their so-called mansion tax.
Consumer groups welcomed the plans- Consumer Focus, the customer rights watchdog, said: "It sounds sensible."
However, less pleasing to some will be the news that Councils will be given "flexibility" to reduce or scrap the current system of tax relief on second homes, many of which are used as holiday lets. Current discounts range from 10 per cent to 50 per cent and can be worth hundreds of pounds a year- earlier this month it was reported to have cost Brighton and Hove City council alone nearly £180,000 a year.
But there may actually be a bona fide reduction in Council Tax coming. Councils will also be encouraged to offer discounts to householders who pay bills online under the changes. Mr Pickles said that the measures could potentially cut the cost of average bills – £1,196 for a Band D property – by £20 a year "by treating everyone equally and fairly".
He said: "By removing the subsidised tax breaks for empty homes and second homes, we can cut £20 a year off families' council tax bills. Councils should make it easier to pay bills, and offer the same discounts for electronic billing that other companies offer as standard – this will cut paperwork and help reduce tax bills."
Of course, this is only a notional reduction on notional savings. Ladbrookes are currently offering odds of only 100/99 that any council tax bill in the country will actually be reduced following implementation of these changes.*
*this may not actually be true.