Council tax rates have risen twice as fast as inflation under the Tories since 2015
Average council tax bills in England have risen twice as quickly as inflation in the last seven years, analysis by NationalWorld can reveal.
Families across the UK saw their council tax bills increase last month, amid an ever-deepening cost of living crisis.
Boris Johnson promised electors in the run up to the local elections earlier this month that a vote for Conservative candidates would 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, as NationalWorld revealed earlier this year, 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 by NationalWorld has now revealed council tax bills have risen at twice the rate of inflation in England since 2015, when the Conservatives won an overall majority in Parliament.
Residents in Scotland and Wales have also seen huge, inflation-busting rises over the last three decades of the council tax system, including over the last decade.
So how does your council tax compare to other parts of England, Scotland and Wales, has your bill risen by more or less than average, and how much faster has it risen compared to inflation over the last 30 years?
Our exclusive analysis reveals the picture where you live.
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). In Wales there are nine bands from A to I.
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.
Northern Ireland uses a different system, and has been excluded from our analysis.
How high is your council tax 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 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.
But even when looking at the average amount all households pay regardless of band, Westminster still has the second lowest council tax in England (£936, compared to an average of £1,493).
You can look up your council in the chart below to see how band D rates in your area compare to the average. The figures show the total amount paid where you live, although fees could be split between a lower tier, upper tier and local parish council, as well as fire and police services.
There are different categories of council in England – for instance inner London boroughs, or more rural shire districts. The chart shows you how your council tax compares to the rates in comparable councils.
Band D rates in Wales are cheaper on average than in England, coming in at £1,777.18 for 2022-23, according to Welsh government figures.
There is a smaller range from cheapest to most expensive than in England too – but the gap is still significant.
Residents in Caerphilly have the cheapest rates at £1,572.95, while those in Blaenau Gwent pay the most at £2,098.66.
Select your council in the chart below to see how band D rates compare to the average.
Scotland has the cheapest rates in Britain, having enjoyed years of council tax freezes under the Scottish National Party, with no annual increase to the fees.
Excluding water and sewage charges, Scottish government figures show the average band D council tax is £1,347 this year.
People in Shetland pay the least, at £1,206, while those in Midlothian pay the most, on £1,443.
Check how your council compares to the Scottish average in the chart below.
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 Southampton saw the smallest increase, with bills rising by just 0.8%.
But in Sandwell, in the West Midlands, average bills soared by 5.2%. This is higher than the amount any single council can raise taxes by without a referendum – but the total bill will include levies set by a number of authorities, such as fire and rescue services, police and crime commissioners, or hyper-local parish councils, which can individually add up to large increases.
The below chart shows you how the average charge faced by properties in your area changed last year compared to comparable councils and the England average.
There was a similar range between high and low increases in Wales this year.
In Bridgend, bills increased by 0.7%, while in Pembrokeshire, the increase was 5%. The increases incorporate elements that go to police forces or local community councils, as well as the main council.
You can look up your council in the chart below to see how your price rise compared to the average.
In Scotland residents had enjoyed a council tax freeze between 2020-21 and 2021-22. This was lifted for 2022-23, leading to an average 3% rise.
Residents in Shetland still saw their bills remain stationary in 2022-23, with no change. Households in Falkirk meanwhile saw the biggest price hikes, at 4%.
In Scotland there is not a separate charge for police and fire services.
Check how your council compares to the national average in the chart below.
Has my council tax risen faster than inflation?
Many British households saw inflation-busting increases to their council tax bill last year.
In 2020-21, consumers faced an average 4% increase to the cost of living, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of inflation published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The below chart shows the annual change in average council tax bills in each country compared with inflation.
England was the only country where the average council tax bill rose by more than inflation in 2021-22, with a 4.4% increase that year. It was the seventh consecutive year that tax rose quicker than inflation.
In Scotland prices stood still in 2020-21, following three consecutive years of above-inflation price rises, while in Wales the average bill rose by 3.8%, just shy of the rate of inflation.
There is no inflation data for the 2022-23 financial year yet – but with monthly inflation reaching a 30-year high of 7% in March, the overall increase in the cost of living for the year is likely to dwarf this year’s council tax bill hikes.
Look up your council in the chart below to find out how increases to your tax have measured up with inflation.
How much has council tax increased over the last 30 years?
The chart below compares the change in average council tax bills compared to inflation since 1996-97, when records for each country begin.
During that time bills in England and Wales have more than tripled, rising 204.3% and 284.3% respectively, while bills in Scotland have almost doubled, rising by 90.3%.
Council tax bills did see much bigger increases under the last Labour government than they have since the Conservatives came to power in 2010 (in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats until 2015).
However, over the last decade councils have faced massive cuts to their funding from central government – and made just as massive cuts to the services they provide to residents as a result.
NationalWorld revealed in February that the Government had effectively cut funding for councils by another £320 million (2.2%) for 2022-23 – the week after it revealed its plan for levelling up.
With council tax bills still rising under the Conservative government, that means people are paying more for less.
Under successive Conservative governments since 2015-16, average bills in England have risen at more than twice the speed of inflation – 28% compared to 13.1%.
Find out how much faster your council tax has risen compared to inflation since 1996-97 in the chart below.