Lower bills are the key to Tory success in seats like North Shropshire
Earlier this year, I was proud to triumph in the Hartlepool by-election and become the first Conservative MP to serve the town for 57 years. As I said in my speech after the result was announced, my campaign was based on the local issues of real concern to the community. My focus was always on putting Hartlepool at the centre the of the post-pandemic recovery by creating more jobs and apprenticeships and attracting extra investment to the town.
Fast forward several months and my party is now fighting another by-election and once again local issues are all-important. As was the case in Hartlepool, voters in North Shropshire want to know whether candidates are committed to delivering for local people when they cast their vote.
My party’s candidate in North Shropshire gets this. Neil Shastri-Hurst has pledged to work with ministers to secure more investment in local high streets, to work with the council and government to roll out broadband in more rural areas and to campaign to re-open local rail lines that were closed many decades ago.
Having served as a medic in the army and then a surgeon in the NHS, Neil has also made it clear that he will work with the government to deliver more local GPs, shorter waiting times for ambulances and new investment in Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals.
But I believe that we can go further to deliver for local people in North Shropshire and beyond. With many households facing rising bills, I agree with an increasing number of my colleagues that we should look again at our outdated and unjust council tax system which now costs many households in my own constituency more than £2,000 a year. The absurdity of the current system is such that households in Hartlepool must pay out an average 1.31 per cent of their property’s value every year, while for residents of Westminster the council tax burden stands at just 0.09 per cent.
As the government pushes ahead with plans to level up the country, we need to ensure that voters feel the benefits
It does not have to be this way. Rather than standing by a system that works for millionaires rather than the millions, we should commit to killing off both council tax and stamp duty. In their place we could have a straightforward proportional property tax set at 0.48 per cent of a property’s value.
In my own constituency and many other red wall seats, the benefits of switching to a new system cannot be understated. Analysis by the Fairer Share campaign shows that 100 per cent of households in Hartlepool would be better off, with an average saving of £950 every year. In North Shropshire, there is also a positive story to tell with lower bills for 92 per cent of households and average savings of £500.
Across England it is estimated that 76 per cent of households would benefit from scrapping council tax and switching to proportional property tax. Crucially, given the pressures faced by the Chancellor as we rebuild after the pandemic, there would be no cost to bringing in a new system. Rather, a proportional property tax would be revenue-neutral for the Treasury.
As the government pushes ahead with plans to level up the country, we need to ensure that voters feel the benefits. That means making local communities more accessible and more attractive, but also doing everything we can to make sure that people have lower bills and more money in their pockets.
Putting a proportional property tax at the heart of the levelling up agenda would go some way to achieving this, delivering real cash savings every year for the majority of households in England.
As the next general election gets closer, it is exactly the kind of policy that the Conservative party should be getting behind in order to deliver for loyal voters and to give our new voters up and down the country a reason to back us once again. More immediately, it is the kind of policy that could resonate with voters and make a decisive difference in North Shropshire.
Jill Mortimer is the Conservative MP for Hartlepool.
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