Do Conservative councils really have lower council tax bills? Fact-checked

Martin Lewis offers advice on council tax rebates

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Britain will head to the polls on May 5 for a variety of local council and mayoral elections. The recent rise in council tax for most of the country has put the elections firmly in the mind of Brits, who will be looking for who will provide the cheapest levies on their homes as the cost of living crisis continues.

Speaking in Bury on Monday, Mr Johnson said: “We are, as you would expect, we’re fighting for every possible vote. And I think the case is very, very clear.

“It is Conservative councils that charge you less. It’s Labour councils that have record council taxes.

“And we’re the party that does more to empty your bins, does more to fix potholes.

“I think I’m right in saying – and you can fact check this if you want – but I think that Conservative councils do four times as many potholes, or fill in four times as many potholes, as Labour councils.

“What we believe in fundamentally is delivering value for money and getting on with the job. That’s what Conservative councillors do up and down the country.

“They do a fantastic job. And we’re going to be campaigning right up till polling day.”

But are the PM’s claims true? Do Conservative councils actually charge you less?

According to Full Fact, a similar claim was made by the Tories and Labour for the 2019 local elections.

Full Fact said: “The Conservatives’ calculations are flawed in three ways.

“Like the Labour claim, a fundamental problem is that in many councils it’s not possible to say that one party sets your council tax.

“Additionally, the “band D” rate used for calculating average bills is not a good method of comparison.

“And even with that, the averages are worked out incorrectly.”

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Council tax bills are set based on the property’s value in 1991 and are put into one of eight bands, ranging from A to H.

Council tax is cheapest in band and A, and the most expensive bills are levied on houses in band H.

Band D is used as the national measure when comparing rates between different councils – but this can be misleading, as different areas have different proportions of homes of varying values.

For example, a home in one of the most expensive areas of Britain, say Cobham or Henley on Thames, will have more homes in bands D to H.

But cheaper places to live like Durham, where half of all homes are in Band A, means the average amount paid by households there is different.

This means a band D rate in a wealthy area can be kept lower than one in a cheaper area, as there are more households that, at least according to the price of the home in 1991, can afford to pay more in the E to H range.

Using real averages calculated by Full Fact and not on the band D national average, in 2021, Conservative-run councils actually charge more.

The average tax per household in Conservative areas in 2021/22 was £1,592, while in Labour areas it came to £1,256, and in Liberal Democrat areas it was £1,700.

But again, these figures are not perfect themselves, as some areas have two tiers of local government.

County councils cover a large area and provide most local services, but tax is collected on their behalf by smaller district councils.

These councils can be controlled by separate political parties, making the distinction of who sets and collects the council tax somewhat murky, as the Government does not publish separate figures for average levy charged by each county or district.

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