I beg to move,
That this House
notes that council tax bills have increased by 70 per cent. under the Labour Government, with further above-inflation rises planned in the forthcoming year and after the general election;
expresses concern that pensioners have been hit hardest and calls on the Government to implement the Conservative policy of an automatic council tax discount for those aged 65 and over;
notes with alarm the Government's plans in any third term for a revaluation which would lead to greater inequities and new higher council tax bands;
rejects Liberal Democrat plans for a local income tax, regional income tax and higher national income tax;
and calls for less bureaucracy and interference from Whitehall and regional bureaucrats in local government funding and for greater transparency in the allocation of local funding for councils.
I seem to be making a habit of standing before the Chamber to talk about a crisis. Last time, it was the crisis in housing and this time it is the crisis in local government funding. It seems to me that we have a Government who are prone to crises. Where the housing crisis particularly hurts the young, the council tax crisis particularly hurts the elderly—it cannot be said that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister discriminates on grounds of age. People who have worked hard all their lives and saved for their retirement should live in dignity and security in old age, but today many of them, particularly those on fixed incomes, find it difficult to make ends meet because of the burden of taxation, which the Government have increased by stealth.
The council tax has proved to be the ultimate stealth tax under this Government, as council tax payers have seen their bills soar by 76 per cent. since 1997. That means that more than a third of the increase in the state pension has been swallowed up by council tax hikes.