The maths of luxury

By Cllr Sam Wheeler


In the planning meetings I attend one argument is continuously put forward in favour of luxury developments when all others fall. That is the argument they bring in more council tax that can supposedly counteract the council’s continuing cuts under austerity.


Bluntly, the sums simply do not add up.


The maximum council tax in Manchester, for a Band H property, is £3292.04. Of the quarter of a million or so properties in Manchester, only around a hundred are Band H, and the only ones I’ve been able to find are in the Beetham Tower. Even a very high-end development therefore is unlikely to be in this band, but let’s grant it for the sake of argument.


Further, while a debate can be had over what exactly is “the city centre”, and exactly how many units are being created between rebuilds and renovations, the 3,200 figure granted planning permission in 2018/19 according to Jon Silver and Richard Goulding’s report seems as good as any.


Let us further assume that none of the inhabitants of these buildings are able to claim either the single-person’s discount or any other form of reduction or exemption in their council tax.


Let us further push the boundaries of reality by saying that not a single one of these people will generate any more litter on the streets, cars on the roads, never break the law, have children, get sick or grow old, and therefore place no demand council services whatsoever.


In that case in the future the annual council tax income from all that development done in 18/19, in the absolute best case scenario, would be about £10.5m.


Which sounds impressive, until you see that the cut in the council budget in 18/19 was £25m.


It is not possible for council tax as currently configured to fill the hole left by government cuts, and to argue that as a reason for bending to the wishes of developers is at best naïve. At worst, it is actively collaborating in the Tory victim-blaming narrative that councils just have to be a bit more business friendly and they wouldn’t have to slash services. Labour councils should have nothing to do with that message.


2 August 2019