It’s a question we may all have asked ourselves once or twice, and then forgotten about and just continued coughing up the cash. What is Council Tax actually for? Where does it go? Does it come back to us readily in the form of services and support? One thing most of us do know is that there are vast disparities between the amounts each borough charges. If you’re in Westminster, you’re in luck because not only is it the lowest Council Tax charge in London (Band D: £668.81), it’s actually the lowest in the UK. And, given how many MPs call it home, is it any wonder that this is the case? Coming in at the other end of the scale is Richmond (Band D: £1582.39), almost £1000 higher.
As for what the tax actually is, it serves as the principal source of locally-raised income for local authorities. Around 25% of revenue expenditure is derived from the tax. The valuation band for your home, plus the area in which you live, determine how much of it you have to pay. The proceeds are generally used for local services such as schools, roads, street lighting, and refuse collection. Other beneficiaries include the following: police, fire service, recycling initiatives, leisure centres, voluntary groups, meals on wheels, CCTV setup and maintenance, sports facilities, tourism, museums, and street cleaning.
If you think you’re paying too much of it because you’ve been put in the wrong Council Tax band, you might be able to get a refund. To get this started, you need to ask for a review, the risk being that your council could wrong-foot you by deciding to place you in an even more expensive band, but perhaps by keeping your tone courteous and friendly you can lessen the likelihood of such a malicious move. So if you’re in one of the more expensive areas (e.g. Hounslow, Band D: £1355.77), remember that as many as 400,000 properties are thought to be in the wrong band at any one time, so you stand a chance. It’s worth remembering just how sloppily evaluated houses were when the tax was first launched. Valuations consisted of little more than driving up and down streets without even getting out of the car to take a proper look.