Sir Simon Milton (Con) has set the Local Government Association on a collision course with Conservative Central Office after calling for council tax revaluation.
Sir Simon, chairman of the LGA, raised the pressure on the Conservatives to bring forward detailed local government policies in a speech to the Smith Institute thinktank last week.
Local government’s most prominent Tory politician, said a council tax revaluation could be achieved “in a politically credible way” by implementing it when people move house.
“We need a very well-managed transitional reform, so that people feel that the effect of revaluation is fair,” he said. “A possible way forward might be to implement revaluation as and when people moved house. This would protect people from sharp increases in council tax while they lived in the same property.”
The Tories have strongly opposed revaluation and accused the government of planning a “revaluation by stealth”. They are due to bring forward their own local government proposals later in the summer, but Sir Simon’s comments will raise expectations on the party to address the problems around council tax.
Shadow local government minister Bob Neill rejected Sir Simon’s comments despite the LGA chairman sitting on the Conservatives’ local government policy committee.
“I think Sir Simon was talking with his LGA hat on there rather than his party hat,” Mr Neill said. “At the moment our policy remains that we will cancel any revaluation of the council tax base.”
Sir Simon’s proposals on revaluation were part of a package to reform the way councils are funded.
In the week the government launched a consultation on meeting the costs of caring for older people, the LGA called for a portion of National Insurance (NI) revenues to be assigned to councils to provide a buoyant source of income that could ease the pressure of spiralling social care costs.
Sir Simon said there was a “natural link” between social care costs and National Insurance revenue. The NI fund is currently£20bn in surplus, he claimed.
Other reforms would see council tax capping scrapped; deregulating charges and fees to allow councils to cover their costs; and further measures to increase the take up of council tax benefit. The LGA also wants councils to be given incentives to grow their local economies and simplified government grants.