Tory MPs tonight refused to vote against a council tax hike during the pandemic.
Labour branded the rise, which could see the bill rise by up to 5%, a “bombshell” that could damage working families.
They called on the Prime Minister to “drop the Government’s plans to force local councils to increase council tax” in the middle of the Covid pandemic.
Labour accused Boris Johnson ’s of breaking a promise provide councils with “funding to meet the Government’s promise to do whatever is necessary to support councils in the fight against Covid-19”.
The party claimed one million workers in England “could face unemployment just as they get hit with Boris Johnson’s £100 council tax hike”.
But the Government refused to vote against the motion – and instead abstained – meaning it passed 210 votes to 0.
It comes after a poll found that half (48%) of English adults oppose the Tory plan, according to a new poll by Savanta ComRes.
The move was supported by just a quarter (25%) of the public and is opposed by almost half (47%) of current Conservative voters.
The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention (furlough) scheme is due to finish at the end of April. The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that unemployment will peak at 2.6 million in the second quarter of this year, a rise of one million since the fourth quarter of 2020, Labour added.
Citing estimated council tax rises per region, according to the think tank the Centre for Progressive Policy, Labour warned families living in Band D “will face an average rise of £93 next year”, adding it would “hit hardest” in the North West and North East, which have high proportions of people on furlough.
Shadow communities and local government secretary Steve Reed said: “The Prime Minister’s £2 billion council tax bombshell will hit many hard-pressed families at the worst possible time – just as many receive their P45s.
“This Government should not be making families pay the price for their broken promises to support councils.
“The Prime Minister must scrap this economically illiterate council tax rise – and if he doesn’t, Conservative MPs need to do the right thing and vote with Labour to protect families’ incomes and help secure our economy.”
In December Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that councils in England can continue to increase tax by up to 2% without a referendum and boost the social care precept by up to 3% in 2021/22.
Mr Jenrick also insisted local authorities are in position to decide whether or not to enforce the increases, claiming they will see their core spending power increase in cash terms by up to 4.5% under the Government’s plans.
Responding to Labour during the debate Mr Jenrick ocal government “has been and remains at the forefront our response to Covid-19”.
He added: “This Government is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their hour of greatest need.”
“We owe them this, the stability, the certainty and the flexibility to plan for a brighter future ahead.”
Mr Jenrick branded the debate “absurd and hypocritical” before listing gaffes by Labour councils.
The debate came amid speculation that the Treasury is eyeing up a rise in corporation tax at the Budget in March and is looking at an overhaul of council tax.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Council tax levels are a matter for locally elected representatives, but we have been clear that councils should take into account the financial circumstances of their residents.
“The Government is not imposing any increase – rather, it sets a ceiling above which a local referendum is required. This protects residents against excessive increases.”