The latest budget pronouncements by the Chancellor in his 2015 Autumn Statement may accelerate increases in local council taxes over the next few years, for both homeowners and businesses.
The Chancellor acknowledged the pressure on the social care system and therefore resolved to give local councils the power to increase social care funding through a new 2% Council Tax rule. This backs a radical, local-led plan to create an integrated health and social care system by 2020, funded by an extra £1.5 billion in the Better Care Fund through local authorities.
The Chancellor has also given local councils the chance to set their own business rates and he announced that they will now retain 100% of the revenue from these rates. In the context of year-on-year cuts to central government support for the councils, this may also fuel increases in local business rates, as councils balance how to attract local business growth and development, whilst needing more local income to simply survive as businesses themselves.
Councils may also be unwilling to sell assets, although they can now retain all the revenue from asset sales in order to improve local services. Whilst in the Chancellor’s view, councils are sitting on plenty of property assets which can be sold, they can only be sold once and then they are gone.
The Autumn Statement also paved the way for more new housing to appear in many local neighbourhoods. The freedom and encouragement to sell council property and land comes at the same time as a demand for sites for the boosted housebuilding intentions of the Government. The housing budget is being doubled from 2018-2019 to £2bn per year, in an attempt to deliver 400,000 new homes.
This is the largest housebuilding programme since the 1970s and will include:
- 200,000 starter homes which will be sold at a 20% discount to young first time buyers
- 135,000 Help to Buy: Shared Ownership homes, with the scheme open to all households earning less than £80,000 outside London and £90,000 in London
- 10,000 homes that will allow tenants to save for a deposit while they rent
- 8,000 specialist homes for older people and those with disabilities
- there will also be a London ‘Help to Buy’ scheme: Londoners with a 5% deposit will be able to get an interest free loan worth up to 40% of the value of a newly built home.