Bristol City Council is set to lose around £1.6 million in revenue this year because of council tax exemptions for new student houses.
In 2019/2020 there will be more student exemptions awarded than new houses paying council tax, according to Deputy Mayor Craig Cheney’s estimates.
Cheney said in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday that this would “directly impact” council spending.
The cash-strapped council will decide its budget in February, the next stage in its plan to reduce its projected £108 million deficit by 2023.
There are over 40,000 students in Bristol, making up around a tenth of the population during term-time. And this number is growing as the University of Bristol expands with its planned new Temple Quarter campus.
Companies like Unite Students, CRM Students and Vita Students manage large student halls – but these are exempt from paying business tax rates.
And students like philosophy undergraduate Nick say an ordinary property is a better option. “Halls are way to expensive and there are too many arbitrary rules.”
Nick chose to live in a house in Easton, where his landlord is taking five student tenants to avoid paying council tax.
Meanwhile some, like libraries campaigner Oliver Fortune, think it’s not students but council tax itself that’s the problem.
He says it’s an unfair system. “It is aimed at protecting those with the most, and unfortunately those with the least end up paying more.”
Deputy Mayor Cheney agreed with Fortune in the Cabinet meeting, commenting, “I think council tax is highly regressive and vaguely linked to property prices as at 27 years ago, which is just not a system that most of us here agree with.”
He then said that the council had to pick their battles and that council tax reform was a national issue.
This news comes as Marvin Rees joined 75 other council leaders last week to demand an end to the government’s cuts.
They want Theresa May to deliver on her Tory conference pledge that austerity would come to an end.
Councillor Don Alexander: Highlights the continued failure of central government to provide a predictable or stable environment to local councils. We are left “less able than the average business – or even a family – to prepare for the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. It’s clear now that a general election is required.”
Clive Stevens: “It must be like having to work with negligent parents.”