FORMER MP Dale Campbell-Savours is spearheading a campaign calling for reform to the council tax laws after it emerged that people living in a £52million property in Westminster pay less than people in the average house in Cumbria.

The Cumbrian peer is due to ask a question in the House of Lords today.

He will ask: “How is it possible for a £52 million house in central London to have a lower council tax rate than a former local authority home on Windebrowe Avenue in Keswick and almost the same as a £90,000 former local authority home on Moorclose Road in Workington in my former constituency?

“The truth is the council tax system is now discredited. It’s unfair, it penalises part of the North and favours London, and it’s now in urgent need of reform.”

The life peer – who as Dale Campbell-Savours was the constituency’s MP from 1979 to 2001 – has spent months researching and comparing council tax figures across Cumbria with high-end properties in central London.

He stressed: “I make no criticism of Cumbrian local authorities. They are all victims of a system which, fair at the point of its introduction more than 30 years ago, is now grossly unfair and in need of urgent reform.”

He presents his findings below...

THIS is a report that will shock. Many will find it difficult to believe, but it is true.

It draws upon my detailed research as part of a wider discussion over a divided Britain.

The overwhelming evidence points (in terms of healthcare, education and public transport) to a privileged south enjoying benefits denied to people living in a less advantaged north.

It draws on my experience of owning two homes – one in Cumbria, where I have previously lived since the early 1950s, and the other in the south, which I have used to attend the House of Commons and later the Lords.

Today I expose one of the most blatant examples of unequal treatment: the council tax and how it penalises parts of the North.

I can reveal that council tax bands in the London borough of Westminster are a fraction of council tax rates payable here in Cumbria. For example a £52million luxury home in Mayfair pays almost the same or only slightly more in council tax than a £70,000 council or housing association property here.

This table compares council tax band payments in South Lakeland and Barrow with those payable in the London borough of Westminster:

£54,000,000 town house in Mayfair, Westminster £1,655

£350,000 house, Carlton Avenue, Barrow-in-Furness £2,015

£269,000 house, Romney Road in Kendal £1,781

My research has taken in properties valued for sale on Rightmove at up to £54million... with a maximum council tax of £1,655. It further shows that throughout Cumbria there are properties registered for council tax in our highest G and H bands with council taxes of well over £4,000 a year – more than two-and-a-half times higher than the highest charges in Westminster on multi-million-pound homes. The highest band there is £1,655, compared with the highest bands in Cumbria:

Eden £4,100

Copeland £4,097

Allerdale £4,065

Barrow £4,031

South Lakes £4,017

Carlisle £3,984

Westminster £1,655

The Government justifies these inconsistencies on levels of efficiency in local government. This is invariably a myth. It leads to a dishonest discussion over the main driver behind council tax increases nationally. The truth is to be found in the varying levels of government support; the ability of councils to raise revenue from parking charges; population and housing density; revenue from cross-borough public sector amenities servicing wider populations; and other factors.

I do not doubt there are inefficiencies to be found in areas of local government, but they pale into insignificance when compared to wider structural failures in the whole council tax system.

The truth is we have created a truly divided society much exacerbated by a refusal by Parliament to agree a reform. Cuts in public services and reductions in financial support are only serving to aggravate the position as annual percentages increase under a national formula. These combine to penalise parts of the country with higher and higher council taxes.

I make no criticism of the Cumbrian local authorities. They are all victims of a system which, fair at the point of its introduction more than 30 years ago, is now grossly unfair and in need of urgent reform.

Inter-party wrangling over marginal annual percentage council tax increases are a distraction from a more valid and urgent discussion over why we in Cumbria are paying more than our share for what are very often lesser public services.

We now need a national debate on the way forward. Hopefully my report will provoke that debate and we can start that in Cumbria with our local authorities taking the lead.