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Council tax set to rise for millions in April with most facing 5% hikes – here's what you need to know

Council tax bills will rise for millions of people from 1 April, with most local authorities in England preparing increases of 5% – adding around £100 to a typical band D bill. In Wales, most councils are planning rises of between around 5% to 10%, while Scotland's council tax is frozen this year. 

Northern Ireland uses a different system known as 'rates'. Council tax bills tend to increase each year, so the rises in England and Wales are unlikely to come as a surprise – but with many households struggling financially, it won't be welcome news. See below for ways you may be able to save on your council tax.

What's happening to council tax bills in April

While council tax rises take effect from 1 April, it's during the early part of the calendar year that local authorities tend to consult on how much to increase their rates by. Here's what's happening: 

  • In England, most local authorities are restricted to increasing council tax by a maximum of 5% this year. Virtually all councils with social care responsibilities – 95% of them – are set to raise council tax by the full 5% in April, according to analysis by the County Councils Network (which represents England's largest councils).

    Council tax on a typical band D property in England was an average of £2,065 in 2023/24, so a 5% rise would be equivalent to around £103 – taking a band D bill to £2,168.

    Where a local authority wants to hike council tax by more than the 5% cap, a referendum would normally be required. However, in certain exceptional circumstances, councils can also apply for permission from the Government to hike their council tax by more than this – for example, where they have serious financial problems.

    Four councils – Birmingham, Slough, Thurrock and Woking – have been granted special permission to enact increases of up to 10% this year, in light of what the Government calls their "significant financial failure". However, the Government has warned these councils that they should take steps to "mitigate the impact on those least able to pay".

  • In Scotland, council tax is frozen this year. The Scottish Government announced in October that council tax bills would remain unchanged until April 2025.

  • In Wales, most local authorities are considering rises of between around 4.7% and 9.8%. When we checked this week, 16 of 22 councils had proposed increases in this range, while the remaining six were still firming up their plans.

    The Welsh Government has powers to cap council tax but says it hasn't used these since devolution, adding that it has "respected the responsibility of local authorities" to set rates.

    Council tax on a typical band D property in Wales was an average of £1,879 for 2023/24 – £186 a year lower than in England.  

It's worth noting that some councils are yet to set their rates. Final decisions are expected to be published over the coming weeks. 

How council tax bill hikes are calculated

Council tax bills are complex and are typically made up of various different elements. Plus, exactly how much you pay also depends on your council tax band, which is based on your property's value.

In England, any increase to your bill can be made up of some or all of the following elements in 2024/25 – so how much you'll pay in total, and the exact percentage rise you'll see, will depend on which elements apply to you: 

  • Your local council element – though this can be split into two parts. The maximum this can rise by is 3% or £5 (whichever is higher) with this funding going towards council services.

    - If you live in a 'single-tier authority' area, where one council looks after all your services, there will be one fee to pay.

    - For those in 'two-tier authority' areas, where two councils cover services, there are two fees – one set by your county council, and another set by your district, borough or city council. How much of your bill goes towards each council varies by authority, but county councils tend to take the largest share. 

  • A charge for adult social care. The maximum this can rise by this year is 2%. This charge is usually included alongside your council rate, meaning a combined total increase for many of 5%. 

  • Additional, separate 'mayoral' charges in London and Manchester. These are made up of different elements, which go towards the cost of services including transport, policing and fire and rescue. They're set to rise by 8.6% in London and by 5.1% in Manchester this year. 
     
  • Other associated costs. The maximum increase for this is set by the local council. This covers fees to police units, fire and rescue services and any town/parish councils. 

In Scotland and Wales, your bill is also split into a number of elements – but these aren't individually capped. 

How to save on council tax bills 

Make sure you're not missing out on support to help pay your council tax bills: 

  • Check if you're eligible for a council tax discount. Many people qualify for discounts or reductions of between 25% and 100% off their council tax bill, potentially saving £100s – or even £1,000s – each year.

    This can include full-time students, people on low incomes and/or benefits, adults living alone (or only with under-18s), carers, people with disabilities and households that contain people with what's known as a 'severe mental impairment'.

    However, it's up to YOU to flag to your council whether you might be eligible for a discount. 

  • Check and challenge your council tax band if you think it's wrong. Many homes in England and Scotland are in the wrong council tax band, and have been since 1991. However, challenging your band is not something to do speculatively without checking, for one simple reason: you can't just ask for your band to be lowered – only for a reassessment, which means it could be moved up or down, so your bills could rise or fall.

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