As the cost of living continues to soar, the value of council tax has come under more scrutiny than ever before, with many seeking greater transparency on where their money goes.
The cost of council tax varies considerably from location to location, on top of the eight different bands used to separate costs inside each local authority.
But does a lower bill always mean you’re getting good value for money? With varying public service standards across the UK, the return you get on your council tax fees can fluctuate wildly depending on the area you live in.
If you need to save money for your annual council tax payment, you should consider comparing savings accounts to get the best deal.
With this in mind, our finance experts have conducted a study to find out which UK regions were getting the most from their council tax.
Looking at the average cost of council tax for band D properties, alongside key metrics such as crime, education, road maintenance, and hospital waiting times, we gave each council jurisdiction in England, Scotland, and Wales an average score out of 10 to find out which places were getting the best return on their council tax.
With a final score of 7.85, Wandsworth stormed to the top of our list. With a perfect fire service score of 10 based on an average response time of 6 minutes and 32 seconds, the south London borough also received impressive scores for education and social care. While other areas in our list recorded higher average scores for services, Wandsworth's exceptional average council tax cost of £845 a year ensured that it provided better value for money than its rivals.
A town famed for rugby league as well as its phenomenal pies, Wigan can now count excellent council tax services among its many virtues. With an outstanding road maintenance score of 9.61 alongside high scores for social care, fire services and household recycling, the greater Manchester town received a final rating of 5.03. Though Wigan’s overall performance score was far better than Wandworth’s, the North West town’s high average council tax cost of £1,678 prevented it from topping our table.
With more than 97% of its schools rated as either good or outstanding by Ofsted, third-placed Windsor & Maidenhead had one of the best education scores in our study. The Berkshire towns received solid scores in most categories, including a household recycling score of 7.95 and a fire service rating of 7.5.
With a final rating of 4.68, Westminster is the second London borough to feature in our top five. Like Wandsworth, the home of parliament combined a perfect score of 10 for fire services with an impressive education rating. Despite receiving alarmingly low scores for crime, household recycling and social care, Westminster’s study-lowest council tax cost of £829 ensured that it still ranked high.
Bromley continued the London dominance at the top of our list. With a final rating of 4.63, the south eastern Borough achieved brilliant scores in the categories of education, social care, and fire services. Despite an impressive final score, Bromley was prevented from an even higher placement by a household recycling score of 4.62 and an average council tax cost of £1692.
Merton, Bolton, West Berkshire, Kensington & Chelsea, and Trafford make up the rest of our top 10. With a final score of 4.53, Merton took the sixth spot thanks largely to its superb scores in the categories of education, fire services, and social care.
Following Merton in our rankings is Bolton, which became the second Greater Manchester entry in our top 10, achieving a final score of 4.34. With an excellent road maintenance score of 9.06, West Berkshire finished eighth with a 4.32 rating.
Kensington & Chelsea took the penultimate place in our top 10 thanks to their outstanding education score of 9.86. Our list is completed by Trafford, which received a final rating of 4.30.
The Norfolk town of Great Yarmouth took the unwanted first spot on our list of poor performers. With a string of terrible scores including 0.13 for social care combined with a substantial average council tax of £1,940 a year, the East Anglian town received a worryingly low final score of 0.76.
In more concerning news for Norfolk, Norwich was found to offer the second-worst value for money to council tax payers in England. With a steep average council tax cost of £2,026, Norfolk’s most populated area received poor scores across the board, including a dire crime score of 0.31.
With more than 1,200 crimes committed for every 10,000 people, Bradford was found to offer the third-worst value in our study. Receiving a dire final score of 1.13, the West Yorkshire city received a string of lowly scores in categories such as crime, education, and social care.
Finishing joint fourth on our list are Redditch and Leicester with overall scores of 1.14. With a concerning household recycling rating of 0.64, Redditch was saved from an even lower position by a respectable road maintenance score of 5.12. Leicester shared the fourth spot with Redditch thanks to its poor scores for household maintenance, crime and social care.
The remainder of our top 10 is made up of Liverpool, Stoke-on-Trent, Lincoln, Derby, and Nottingham. With extortionate council tax costs of £2,129 per annum, Liverpool placed sixth-bottom of our list with an overall score of 1.15.
Following Liverpool is Stoke-on-Trent, which finished narrowly ahead of the Merseyside city thanks to its lower council tax price and superior scores for social care and road maintenance. Next on our list is Lincoln, which ranked eighth due to its high crime rate and poor education score of 1.81.
Rounding off our bottom 10 are Derby and Nottingham, with the neighbouring cities finishing ninth and tenth with scores of 1.23 and 1.37, respectively.
With solid scores in every category, Angus was found to be the region that offered the best return on council tax in Scotland. The historic county received the highest household recycling scores on our list, with a recycling percentage of 57.90% contributing to a stellar final rating of 6.86.
Narrowly missing out on the top spot was Moray. Located in the northeast of the country, this region incidentally ranks better than Angus for roads that require repair and crime rates. However, living here will set you back an extra £116 a year in council tax, by comparison. Plus, 3% less of household waste is reused, recycled or composted.
Coming in a solid third position is Aberdeenshire. Despite having the third-best ratio of roads that require repair (and the fifth-best crime rates) across Scotland, a dismal recycling rate of 40.8% prevents this Neolithic region from climbing higher in the rankings.
At the other end of our table, Dumfries & Galloway, the City of Edinburgh and Argyll & Bute were found to be the three worst value places for council tax in Scotland. With an appalling household recycling percentage of 30.10%, Dumfries and Galloway finished bottom with an overall score of 1.41.
Despite receiving poor scores across the board, the City of Edinburgh just missed out on the bottom spot, thanks to an improved recycling score of 37%.
This was followed by Argyll & Bute, which was found to offer the third-worst value, with a score of 2.12. Despite having more than 15% of roads requiring repair (the worst across Scotland), its saviour is a very respectable crime rate of 7.42 (the ninth-best in the country).
With a final score of 4.21, the Vale of Glamorgan was found to be the place that offered the best return on council tax in Wales. This southeast region scored a perfect 10 for average fire service response times, whilst ranking second for recycling (over 70% of household waste) and crime rates (569 per 10,000 people). Despite this, just over half of its schools are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted (one of the lowest percentages in the whole of Wales).
Regardless of being the fourth most expensive council in Wales for council tax, Bridgend offers the second-best return for your money. Like the Vale of Glamorgan, this area also scores maximum points for its fire service. An astonishing 83% of its schools are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted, helping to contribute to its high-performance score of 8.07 out of 10. However, with slightly lower values than the Vale of Glamorgan for the other variables, it’s only able to secure second place overall.
Rounding off our top three is Cardiff, which received a final value score of 3.71. With perfect ratings for education and fire services, the Welsh capital had its ranking compromised by an abysmal score of 0 for household recycling (at a meagre 55%), and an alarming 2.11 crime rating, representing 902 crimes per 10,000 people.
At the other end of the scale, Denbighshire is cut adrift at the bottom, with a final score of 1.49. This is largely due to the high levels of crime; 1009 crimes per 10,000 people is the second highest in Wales behind Newport’s 1072.
With a final rating of 2.12, Wrexham is the second-worst return to council taxpayers in Wales. Despite receiving poor scores in most categories, this market town was saved from last place by a stellar score of 7.61 for education, meaning 80% of its schools are rated as good or outstanding by Ofsted.
Completing our trio at the bottom is Blaenau Gwent, with the southeast borough having its score damaged by a steep average council tax price of £2,078 (the highest in the country). Despite a maximum score for fire services and the second-best road maintenance in the whole of Wales, Blaenau Gwent scored terribly in the remaining categories, notably education, by having the third worst-rated schools across all Welsh councils.
While moving house to a new area might be a bit of an extreme reaction to a high council tax bill, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your bill without relocating. As the cost of living continues to rise, it’s worth checking the below to make sure you’re not needlessly overpaying on council tax.
Compare your council tax band with neighbouring properties of a similar size and style. If your house landed in a higher band, you may have good grounds for appeal. Relevant information could also be obtained online: England (Valuation Office Agency), Scotland (Scottish Assessors'
To find out the value of your house in 1991, enter your property price at the last valuation into a house price valuation tool such asNationwide’s. Next, compare this with thetax bands introduced in 1991. If you find yourself in a higher band than you should be, you could appeal it.
If you live alone, for instance, or you’re the only adult in the household living with under-18s, you can get 25% off your council tax bills; if you are a full-time student taking a one-year long course, or dedicate 21 hours of studying per week, you are exempt from paying. Check your local council's site to see who else is entitled to discounts.
Aside from council tax, what else could you be needlessly overpaying? We've analysed the latest cost of living statistics on your behalf to show you where the cost of living has increased, from food, rent, mortgage rates, and more.
Council Tax is an annual fee, set out and paid to your local council. The cost goes towards funding local services including, police and fire services, rubbish and waste collection and many other community factors.
Your council tax band determines how much council tax you pay and is based on the value of your property at a specific point in time.
You can find out what council tax band you are in by searching the government's online database here.
If you would like to find out more information on how you can save money on your council tax or how the system works then read some of our helpful guides below.
Money.co.uk were keen to uncover which parts of the UK residents are getting the best return on their council tax.
They firstly scraped council tax figures for band D properties (2020/2021) across the UK and collated the performance statistics of services provided in each UK district, to determine the councils providing the best return of value. The type of services examined included:
Fire service response time
ii. Due to data only available by county, the same value was allocated to all councils within each county. All figures used are collected from the latest available reports.
Percentage (%) of household waste recycled
Ii. With Scotland’s data only covering % of household waste sent to landfills, approximate recycling %s was measured using the % that wasn’t sent to landfills.
Percentage (%) of roads that need repair
ii. Roads that require repair are defined as ‘red classified roads’, and where data are only available for the county, the same value was attributed to all individual councils within the county.
Crime rate per 10,000 people as of 2020/2021
ii. Fraud cases were excluded from this criteria.
Percentage (%) of schools rated good/outstanding
ii. Scotland was excluded from this criterion as relevant data was infeasible to collect.
Percentage (%) of care homes rated good/outstanding
i. Data was collected via adult social care inspection reports for the year 2020/2021.
ii. Only data for England was available.
An overall performance score out of 10 was assigned to each council across the UK, by applying a PERCENTRANK formula across all variables examined. The scores were finally divided by the amount of council tax in each area to calculate a value ratio for each council.
Councils with missing data for three or more variables were omitted.
The value ratios were ranked in descending order, with higher scores denoting councils with a better return of value.
All data was obtained in April 2022 and is accurate as of then.
James has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news, specialising in consumer rights, pensions, insurance, property and investments - picking up a series of awards for his journalism along the way.