Sir Keir Starmer has insisted his local election pledge that he would have frozen council tax bills if he was in power is “not hypothetical”.
The Labour leader has put the announcement, which would have been paid for by a “proper” windfall tax on fossil fuel giants, central to his fight for the May 4 polls.
But he has not committed to freezing council tax in the future if he can form a Labour government after the next election, expected next year.
The Conservatives said that means the pledge “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”, pointing to Labour councils having increased their tax in line with others.
Defending his pledge, Sir Keir told broadcasters during a campaign visit to Plymouth that the Tories could go forward with the policy to ease the cost-of-living crisis.
“Now, it’s not hypothetical, because the money we would use is the profits from oil and gas companies, we would tax that, there’s £10 billion there,” he said.
“The Government could – just as they stole the idea of an energy price freeze from us – they could steal this and we could move all this in the next few weeks.
“Because if the Government said we’ll match Labour and have a freeze on council tax for the next year, we would obviously vote for it. The money is available. And if the Government was serious about dealing with the cost of living, they would take this Labour idea and run with it.”
Labour is hoping to benefit in England’s local elections as the Tories continue to lag far behind in national polls.
The party claims the Government is effectively forcing councils to increase their charges by reducing central funding while giving them additional “flexibilities” to raise taxes locally.
Labour says this has resulted in an average council tax rise of 5.1%, topping £2,000 for the first time.
Tory chairman Greg Hands said: “They have no plan to introduce this if elected. They’re taking the British people for fools.
“If Labour were serious about cutting council tax Labour councils would be doing it now.
“Instead, across the country it’s Labour-run councils with higher council tax, Labour-run Wales where bills have quadrupled, and Labour-run London where council tax has gone up 9.7%.”