The Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivered his autumn statement on Thursday (17 November), with the Rishi Sunak administration hoping the fiscal policy event would provide the UK economy with stability amid the ongoing cost of living crisis and likely recession.
In his speech, Hunt announced several key changes to personal taxes. One of the biggest was a sharp rise to income tax for the UK’s highest earners, while the rest of the country faces an effective tax rise on their salaries given the tax’s thresholds have been frozen.
But one of the stealth tax rises that could prove to be the most painful for households was to council tax. While the Chancellor cannot raise local authority rates himself, he has adjusted the rules councils have to abide by when raising the tax rate, making it easier for them to get more money from taxpayers.
It comes as the UK households already face the dual challenge of rising prices and falling wages. Meanwhile, councils have been struggling to deliver services after years of austerity squeezes.
So, what has Jeremy Hunt announced for council tax rates - and how can you find out what your council tax band is? Here’s what you need to know.
What’s my council tax band?
Council tax is the money you are charged by your local authority for the services it provides, for example bin collections, as well as other public bodies like the police and fire brigade. In Scotland, it also includes your water bill as the utility is nationalised north of the border.
The amount you pay is dependent upon the value of the home you live in (regardless of whether you own or rent it) and the area it’s situated in. Depending on their value, all homes are put into bands that determine how much council tax you will pay.
The parameters of these bands vary across the UK, while the rate you will pay for being in a particular band changes from location to location. As a rule of thumb, the more your house or flat is worth, the more council tax you will have to pay.
There are eight bands in England and Scotland, ranging from A (the cheapest band) to H. Meanwhile, in Wales, there are nine bands, with 1 being the most expensive and 9 the cheapest.
You can reduce the amount of council tax you pay if your circumstances match specific criteria. For example, if you’re on a low income or live alone, you will see your council tax reduced. For a full list of exemptions, visit the Government’s Moneyhelper website.
How can I check which council tax band I’m in?
Council tax varies depending on where you live. If you live in England or Wales, you can check how much you have to pay by putting your address or postcode into this Government website.
For residents of Scotland, you can do the same on the Scottish Assessors website. In Northern Ireland, council tax is referred to as ‘rates’ and is calculated differently. An explainer on Northern Ireland rates can be found on the devolved administration’s website.
What council tax changes has Jeremy Hunt announced?
During his budget speech on 17 November, Jeremy Hunt revealed he would be making it easier for English councils to raise more money through council tax.
Under current rules, councils have to hold local referendums if they want to hike council tax by more than 3%. But Mr Hunt announced that the level will be pushed up to 5%.
The Treasury has said it expects around 95% of councils to increase payments by the full 5%, with Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) analysis saying it will amount to an additional financial burden on households of £4.8 billion by 2027/28 - the equivalent of increasing the average Band D bill by roughly £250.
But councils have warned tax rises will be “extremely difficult” for struggling households, while also failing to plug many local authorities’ shortfalls.
Chair of the Local Government Association Cllr James Jamieson said: “We have been clear that council tax has never been the solution to meeting the long-term pressures facing services – particularly high-demand services like adult social care, child protection and homelessness prevention.
“It also raises different amounts of money in different parts of the country unrelated to need and adding to the financial burden facing households.”
The County Councils Network, which represents 36 mainly Conservative authorities, said “some county leaders may be reluctant” to impose 5% hikes as a result of the cost of living crisis and households in rural areas “currently pay[ing] the highest bills on average”.