Residents in Wellingborough, which will become part of newly formed North Northamptonshire from 1 April, will see the biggest increase to their council tax bills in April, which are set to increase by 7.5%, according to the latest government data.
However, residents in Scotland will see no change to their bills; all Scottish councils have announced they will freeze council tax rates for 2021-22 after it was announced in the Scottish Budget that any councils that froze their rates would receive extra funding from the Scottish government equivalent to the maximum 3% council tax increase.
Which? found that every local authority in England and Wales upped its rates for 2021-22, with 83 councils increasing rates by more than the 5% cap recommended by the government.
While it’s arguably never a welcome bill to receive, the arrival of higher council tax bills may be particularly unwelcome as many households are still experiencing adverse financial effects from the coronavirus pandemic.
Here, Which? reveals how council tax bills vary across England, Wales and Scotland, along with tips on how to reduce your bill and what your options are if you’re struggling to pay.
Map: how much will your council tax increase by?
The average Band D council tax bill has increased by 4.4% in England.
The map below shows the percentage increases for council tax band D across England, Scotland and Wales, using data from gov.uk, gov.scot and Stats Wales.
There is an official cap of 5% this year – comprising a 2% council tax rise and an additional 3% precept for social care – but some 83 councils across England and Wales are raising their bills by more than this.
There are 13 councils raising rates by more than 6%, including East Riding of Yorkshire, Wrexham and Hammersmith & Fulham.
However, residents in some local authorities will notice very slight increases to their council tax bill from April. Band D council tax bills in Hartlepool are set to increase by just 0.33%, while those in Warwick will see a 0.74% rise.
In fact, 232 councils in England will not be increasing council tax bills by the full 5% cap.
- Find out more: what is council tax?
Who pays the most council tax?
The places with the largest council tax increases don’t necessarily pay the highest council tax bills.
Those living in Nottingham will have the highest Band D council tax bills, set to pay £2,225.76 in 2021-22 after a 5.04% rise.
Westminster residents still have the cheapest bills; here, someone in a Band D property will pay just £829.87.
In the past, local authorities in Wales have made particularly large increases to council tax bills. Residents in Pembrokeshire saw Band D bills increase by 15.4% between 2019-20 and 2020-21 – in fact, all local authorities in Wales upped their bills by 8% or more last year.
However, it’s a different story this year. Wrexham residents will see the biggest increase of 6.43%, while Pembrokeshire is increasing its bills by 4.07%. Of the 22 Welsh local authorities, 14 are imposing Band D council tax increases of less than 4%.
What if you can’t afford to pay your bill?
If your income has dropped or you’ve started claiming benefits recently, contact your local council to see if you can get a council tax reduction, also known as hardship relief.
Depending on your circumstances, it may reduce your council tax bill permanently, or just for a limited time.
Your bill can be reduced up to 100%, but this will depend on where you live (as each council runs its own scheme), your circumstances, your household income including savings and pensions, and whether your children or any other adults live with you.
Other ways to reduce your council tax bill
We’ve set out some tips to help lower your bill.
Check your council tax band
Under the current council tax system, properties in England, Scotland and Wales are placed into council tax bands depending on their value on a certain date, along with their size, layout, character and location.
If you think your property has been placed into the wrong band or has changed since it was built which means its band should be changed, you can request a new valuation.
If your property is moved into a lower band, you’ll pay less council tax in future and also get refunded for any extra amount you have already been paying. However, it’s also possible to be moved up a band – if that happens, your council tax bills will become more expensive.
- Find out more: council tax bands
Claim a single-person discount
If you live alone in a property, you’ll qualify for a 25% single-person discount.
However, you may also receive this discount if you or someone you live with counts as a ‘disregarded person’ for council tax purposes. This includes:
- student nurses
- young people (under the age of 25 in approved training)
- carers providing at least 35 hours’ care per week who are not the main resident’s spouse or civil partner
- people who are severely mentally impaired
- members of visiting forces.
These discounts are not always applied automatically, so if you think you qualify for a discount, you should write to your local council and explain why this is the case. You may need to provide proof.
Our guide on reducing your council tax gives a longer list of people who may qualify for the 25% discount.
Get a second home discount
Councils may give discounts for second properties and holiday homes, but the discounts vary and they are granted at your council’s discretion.
If you’re a clergyman or a publican, you can get up to 50% off your second home if it’s part of your work.
- Find out more: reducing your council tax bill
What is council tax spent on?
Money raised 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. Expenses vary from council to council, depending on the needs of its community, which is why council tax bills can vary so widely.