Council tax: do people in Birmingham pay more or less than the national average?

As Boris Johnson promises Conservative councillors will keep tax low, we take a look at how council tax bills have fared under his government

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English, Welsh and Scottish voters will soon be heading to the polls in the 2022 local elections – and with the cost of living crisis continuing to bite, council tax remains as thorny an issue as ever before.

Boris Johnson has promised electors that a vote for Conservative candidates will help keep council tax low, accusing Labour controlled local authorities of imposing bigger levies on residents.

But councils across England have faced enormous budget cuts at the hands of the Tory-run central government since 2010, increasing their reliance on council taxpayers to fund vital services – against a backdrop of an ageing and growing population, which is increasingly expensive to care for.

New analysis shows that council tax bills have risen at twice the rate of inflation in England since 2015, when the Conservatives won an overall majority in Parliament.

New pound coins on a council tax billNew pound coins on a council tax bill
New pound coins on a council tax bill

What is council tax and how is it set?

Council tax is a system of local taxation linked to the value of properties. It is one of the main sources of funding for councils, which provide a huge range of services including education, housing, social care, sports and leisure facilities, public health, arts and culture and road maintenance.

In England and Scotland properties are placed into one of eight bands from A (cheapest council tax) to H (most expensive).

Each country has a nation-wide scale for assigning properties to bands based on their historical value (the price in 1991 in England and Scotland and in 2003 in Wales).

But local councils – and other authorities funded by council tax, such as police and fire services – then set the fees that they charge for each band.

How high is council tax in Birmingham compared to other parts of the country?

Council tax rates vary enormously across the country – none more so than in England, where there is a gap of more than £1,400 between the cheapest and priciest areas for a band D property, a common benchmark for comparison.

On average, band D households in England are paying £1,965.70 in 2022-23, according to figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The lowest fee is in Westminster, at just £865.78, while the highest is in Rutland, in Leicestershire, at £2,300.03.

In Birmingham, the fee is £1,815.55, which is 7.9% less than national average.

In England, band D is reserved for houses that were worth between £68,000 and £88,000 in 1991.

That could mean councils in wealthier areas are better able to keep council tax rates low, as a higher proportion of properties there will fall into bands E to H and pay the higher fees.

In poorer areas, where house prices have been consistently lower, more people may fall into bands A to C and pay the council’s cheapest rates.

Is your tax increase this year higher than average?

Council tax was among the many bills posing steep increases for families last month – although rises will have been offset by a £150 council tax rebate for those in band A to D properties.

Households in England saw the biggest price rises on average between 2021-22 and 2022-23, at 3.5%, while bills in Scotland rose by 3% and in Wales by 2.7%.

There was widespread variation across the country, however.

In England, residents in Birmingham saw bills rise by 3.4%.

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