Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Fairness and Security in Old Age

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:05 pm on 10th September 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris Labour, Wolverhampton South West 2:05 pm, 10th September 2003

Mrs. Calton ended by talking about the council tax. It seems to me that the Liberal Democrats are again being somewhat two-faced on the question of whether they want decentralisation or centralisation in the context of equality of services throughout the country. I am in favour of equality, but I am also in favour of decentralisation. I hope that the Liberal Democrats will forgive me if I am wrong, but I do not think I have heard them talk about council tax benefit today. They talk about ability to pay, but that is what council tax benefit is there for.

The difficulties that exist throughout the country this year, especially in the south-east, have been caused by councils' unrealistic views over the years on the level at which they should set their taxes. In my area of Wolverhampton, in the west midlands, we have had no such problems, because the Government's new formula redresses the historic imbalance affecting the rate support grant—now the formula spending share—that the city council used to receive.

Let me give an example to bolster my assertion that there was an historic imbalance in England. When I entered Parliament two and a half years ago, I moved into a property in the London borough of Lambeth. Like the property in which I have lived for many years in my constituency, it is in band D. I found that the council tax in London was considerably lower than that in Wolverhampton—not because Wolverhampton council is much more inefficient than Lambeth, as hon. Members probably realise, and not, as far as I can deduce, because the services provided for Lambeth residents are much worse than those provided in Wolverhampton. Given the considerably higher cost of conducting council business in London, I think the differential can only be explained by the historic imbalance of moneys from central Government. The adjustments that have been made surely redress that imbalance, as you may agree, Madam Deputy Speaker.