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How far is the poll tax a 'community charge'? The implications of service usage evidence

Bramley, Glen, Le Grand, Julian ORCID: 0000-0002-7864-0118 and Low, William (1989) How far is the poll tax a 'community charge'? The implications of service usage evidence. Policy and Politics, 17 (3). pp. 187-205. ISSN 0305-5736

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Identification Number: 10.1332/030557389782454785


The poll tax reform of local government finance in Britain is justified in part by arguments for using a 'benefit tax', which relates tax to the use made of local services. We review the theory of local public finance and find some support for this argument, although this is not overwhelming and neither the Government nor the theoretical literature provide any empirical evidence on the actual pattern of service benefits. This article attempts to rectify this omission by drawing on unique new household survey evidence from the County of Cheshire, which enables the cost of services used by each of a representative sample of households to be estimated. The distribution of service usage can then be compared with the distribution of alternative local taxes, specifically the existing rates system and the poll tax. It is argued that the most appropriate comparisons are between income and socio-economic groups standardised for demographicstructure, and the treatment of rebates is also considered. The article concludes that the poll tax incidence deviates systematically from the pattern of service usage and is therefore not a good benefit tax, worse in fact than the current rating system.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 1989 The Policy Press
Divisions: Social Policy
LSE Health
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2008 16:56
Last Modified: 15 May 2024 23:30

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