Labour has criticised the Conservatives for leaving millions of people “worse off” as annual council tax bills in England rise by an average of 5.1% in April.
The average bill will top £2,000 for the first time in 2023-24 – an increase of £99 on the previous year, according to Government figures released last week.
Labour will on Saturday launch an ad van campaign in Thurrock, Essex, where the local Conservative council is raising council tax by 10%.
The party claims the Government is effectively forcing councils to increase their charges by reducing central funding while giving them additional “flexibilities” to raise taxes locally.
Labour has said it would use an extended windfall tax to freeze council tax for one year if it were in power, as it seeks to contrast its approach with the Tories’ ahead of the May local elections.
Sir Keir Starmer first made the promise as he fired the starting gun on his party’s campaign for the May 4 polls in Swindon, Wiltshire, on Thursday.
But he has not committed to freezing council tax in the future if he can form a Labour government after the next election, expected next year.
The Conservatives said that means the pledge “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”, pointing to Labour councils having increased their tax in line with others.
Sir Keir on Friday insisted his pledge is “not hypothetical” as the Tories could go forward with the policy.
He told broadcasters during a campaign visit to Plymouth: “The Government could – just as they stole the idea of an energy price freeze from us – they could steal this and we could move all this in the next few weeks.
“Because if the Government said we’ll match Labour and have a freeze on council tax for the next year, we would obviously vote for it. The money is available.
And if the Government was serious about dealing with the cost of living, they would take this Labour idea and run with it.”
Labour is hoping to benefit in England’s local elections as the Tories continue to lag far behind in national polls.
Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood and the party’s national campaign co-ordinator, said: “Across the country, families tell me that they feel worse off and that nothing is working better than it did 13 years ago when the Tories came to power.
“By showing a Labour government would freeze council tax this year – funded by a proper windfall tax on the enormous profits of oil and gas giants – we are showing exactly who is on the side of working people this local election.
“A vote for Labour on 4th May is a vote to build a better Britain for working people.”
Conservative chairman Greg Hands criticised Labour.
He said: “They could be charging lower council tax like the Conservatives but voters living in Labour areas are actually paying higher council tax.
“Wales’ Labour government has increased council tax by 6%, Labour’s Mayor in London has increased council tax by 10% and Labour across the country are charging more for council tax.
“Only the Conservatives are keeping council tax low and delivering on our national priorities.”