Council tax values working against us.
Just three hours before the Chancellor delivered his 11th budget, the long-awaited Lyons review of town hall finances and the future function and role of local government, commissioned by Gordon Brown, was published.
Sir Michael Lyons called for a new top-rate council tax band for houses worth at least pounds 2.5m, balanced by a new bottom band to cut the burden for the least well-off ( which would benefit pensioners and many in the North where houses have not risen as fast as in the South.
"A failure to revalue, basically, is a vote in favour of those who have become wealthier from disproportionate increases in their houses' value and a vote in favour of the South against the North," added Sir Michael.
But he acknowledged the plans were for the medium term with ministers ruling out any revaluation, last done in 1991, during this Parliament.
But automation of payment of council tax benefits to ensure pounds 1.8bn of unclaimed cash was drawn on each year could be immediately implemented, said Sir Michael.
He recommended the current pounds 16,000 savings limit above which the benefit is not payable should be raised to pounds 50,000 to give 370,000 pensioner households a pounds 10 weekly bill reduction ( before ultimately being scrapped.
Sir Michael also said councils should be able to introduce new rubbish taxes, to head off European fines for using landfill sites, while the Government's ability to cap council tax rises should be axed as part of wider freedoms for town halls.
He backed a tourism tax in some areas and a local supplementary business rate in consultation with companies.
Sir Michael also supported handing powers over roads and rail services, planning and skills to conurbations like Tyne and Wear along with greater regulation of buses.
The North-East Chamber of Commerce said it would be "disastrous" for business rates to return to councils because it had put the brake on economic development, but was interested in raising local funds if done in consultation with business.
The Northern branch of the Pensioners' Convention said action was needed to help older people.
Secretary Bob Pinkerton said: "We seem to have a gap where people who have worked all their lives and paid their taxes, but are now subsidising those who haven't."
Newcastle Council leader John Shipley said splitting the lowest council band would benefit 58% of the city's poorest households, while "minor" flexibilities in business rates were a step in the right direction.
He promised to consult with business about any tourism tax but added devolution was vital and welcomed the report's recognition of the importance of allowing city-regions to choosing their own structures.