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The Laz word...says scrap Council Tax altogether

This year’s council elections are the most crucial in Liverpool since 1998. So this week will the Lib Dems actually <i>lower</i> the sting to win us over?

Published on March 1st 2010.


The Laz word...says scrap Council Tax altogether

WIRRAL'S Tories want a zero increase in Council Tax, joining Liverpool which has already announced a stay-as-you-are level.

The Government would fund local councils with the cost added on to general taxation. It would mean tax payers would fund local services, a uniform level across the country added on to PAYE. No need for expensive municipal treasury or benefit departments

But the big question is whether Warren Bradley’s Lib Dems will go one even better at this Wednesday’s crucial Budget meeting this week – and effectively lower the Council Tax.

As things stand, the bills dropping through letter boxes across the city in the coming weeks will slightly increase, because the police and fire authorities, both chaired by Labour, have increased their costs.

Warren will no doubt, as I write, be seeking to find some spare cash from the council coffers to absorb the police and fire increases so that on your bit of paper it is essentially the same.

This year’s council elections on May 6 are the most crucial in Liverpool since 1998 when Mike Storey dispatched Labour to the political sidelines. At one time, the Lib Dems ruled Liverpool with a majority of over 60 seats, and now it’s wittled down to the narrowest possible margin. That paves the way for Joe Anderson and Labour to retake control.

Wednesday’s budget debate will reveal all.

Across the board, local councils have been given notice of massive cut-backs in spending, whoever wins the General Election. Liverpool fears it will suffer badly if government cash is cut back.

So here is a novel idea from the Neild manifesto – let’s scrap Council Tax altogether, make it free. No more Council Tax bills with all the unfair and inequitable rules.

Margaret Thatcher attempted change with the poll tax. Least said about that the better. So here’s how my regime would work.

Less than one-fifth of council spending is raised by Council Tax, the rest comes from HM Government. Yet to collect that fifth there has to be a cumbersome collection system at every council offices, and a benefits system to help the worst-off.

Instead, the Government would fund local councils with the cost added on to general taxation. It would mean tax payers would fund local services, a uniform level across the country added on to PAYE. No need for expensive municipal treasury or benefit departments.

It would release millions of pounds into local economies because the cost would be spread across wage earners.

Critics will say it will erase local decision making. Not with my system: the Local Government Commission would announce funding for each council, covering four years, based on inflation. Political parties would then produce local manifestos stating how they would manage local government over four years.

Elections would then take place every four years with voters having the chance to sack the administration if it has performed badly.

The present system needs change. There are homes, say in Band D, with three or more wage earners paying a fixed amount for council services, while a single occupant in a Band E or F home will pay more.

The Lib Dems have in the past favoured a local income tax, but that would be even more expensive than the current system of collection.

With a national system the country’s best collection agency, HM Inland Revenue, would gently take the money from our wage packets.

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