Residents of Pembrokeshire will see the biggest increase to their council tax bills – a rise of 9.97% – as new data released by the government reveals how much council tax is climbing across England and Wales.
All councils but one in England and Wales have upped their council tax rates in 2019-20, with a third increasing rates by more than 5%.
Some 130 increasing rates by more than the 4.99% cap, while a further 29 have increased rates by between 5.8% and 5.99%.
So, how do council tax rates compare around the country?
Which? Money collated the figures from every single local authority in England and Wales (Scotland has yet to publish its council tax data) to see where council tax has increased the most since last year, and where people have the highest bills.
Which areas have seen the biggest council tax increases?
While the average council tax bill in England has risen by an average of 4.7%, there is a lot of variation between local authorities.
The map below shows the percentage increases for council tax band D across England and Wales.
Council tax percentage increases in England and Wales 2019-20
While there’s a cap of 5.99% that’s supposed to dictate the maximum increase, some 20 councils are raising council tax by more than this.
The highest increase in England and Wales is in Pembrokeshire, which has seen a 9.97% increase. Band D properties in this area will be charged £1,377.25 in 2019-20, up from £1,252.41 in 2018-19. Residents here also saw an increase of 11.04% last year.
Elsewhere, residents in Powys will see their bills go up by 9.72%; the Isle of Anglesey has rises of 9.13% and Conwy has upped the rates by 9.12%. In fact, of the top-10 highest-percentage increases, all 10 are in Wales.
Another 15 councils have applied increases between 5.8% and 5.99%, including Hackney, Monmouthshire and Doncaster.
However, not all residents will see their council tax rise on this scale.
For instance, residents of Thurrock, in Essex, will see a council tax rise of just 1.70%, and those living in the former local authority of Christchurch – which will become Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole from 1 April this year – will actually see a reduction in the amount of council tax they pay, to the tune of 5.30%.
Whereas Christchurch residents paid £1,888 in 2018-19, in 2019-20 their bills will be reduced to £1,788.
Council tax bands 2019-20
You can use our council tax calculator to find rates for your post code.
Please note that in some local authorities, your rate may vary depending on which parish you live in. Some local authorities will be merged and renamed from 1 April – these are listed under their previous names but show rates for 2019-20.
What is council tax spent on?
Money councils receive from council tax bills goes towards funding local services, such as the police, fire services, parks maintenance, refuse disposal, street cleaning and services supporting the elderly and other vulnerable people.
Each council is responsible for managing its own funds, and expenses vary from council to council depending on the needs of its community.
This is why council tax rates can vary widely even between neighbouring councils.
Find out more: what is council tax?
Why have council tax rates increased?
A recent survey of local authorities found that 97% of councils were planning to increase council tax rates, and 75% intended for the increases to be more than 2.5%.
In practice, just 2% have increased rates by less than 2.5%; 36% have increased rates by more than 5%; 6% of councils have put rates up by more than 6%.
This is the second year that councils have been able to increase council tax rates by up to 5.99%, which is made up of general maximum 2.99% rise, and a 2% social care precept to cover the costs of providing care.
This year, however, 130 councils have exceeded the 4.99% price increase.
This cap only dictates the maximum increases allowed without a referendum; councils with higher price rises may have passed a referendum to do so, or if you’re in a parish council there may be an additional parish precept charge.
Areas with parishes charging a precept will have seen an average parish precept increase of 5.7%.
How can you reduce your council tax bill?
You may be able to get your council tax bill reduced if you are, or you live with, someone who qualifies for a reduced rate, or if the property has changed.
Changing your council tax band
Properties are placed into council tax bands depending on their value on a certain date, the size and character of the property, its layout and location (apart from in Northern Ireland, where the domestic rates system is used).
If you think your property has been put into the wrong band, or it’s been converted into flats etc, you can request a revaluation from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) (or Scottish Assessors Association – SAA in Scotland).
If your property is put in a lower band, your council tax bills will be reduced, and you’ll receive a refund for what you’ve overpaid on past bills. However, your property could also be put in a higher band.
Find out more: how to get a council tax refund
Claim a single-person discount
If you live alone in a property, you qualify for a 25% discount on your council tax bill.
However, there are also a number of qualifying people who you can live with and still count as being a ‘single person’. Such people include:
- A student nurse
- An 18- or 19-year-old in full-time education
- A full-time student (attending university or college)
- People who are severely mentally impaired
- Carers providing at least 35 hours’ care a week, if they are not the main resident’s husband, wife or civil partner
- Monks and nuns
See our guide on reducing your council tax bill for a longer list of people who qualify for a 25% council tax discount.
Second home discount
Some councils offer a 10% council tax discount on holiday homes, and 50% on second homes – although the latter is reserved for tenant publicans or members of the clergy who are provided accommodation as part of their work.
You’ll need to pay full council tax on the property that acts as your main home.