Before being elected to Parliament, I had the honour of being a local councillor in Dudley, including serving as shadow finance cabinet member. Having seen Labour’s record on council tax when running Dudley Council and when in power nationally, I am amazed that Labour Members have the sheer brass neck to talk about council tax. In the six years when we had both a Labour Government and a Labour-run council, Dudley’s council tax rose by more than 45%—by twice the rate it has gone up over the past six years. Since being a Member of Parliament, I have heard Labour Members in this House and Labour councils around the country demanding that the referendum cap be scrapped, yet now they attack an increase raising that cap by 1% more than last year—an increase that is earmarked to fund social care. How I wish that this change was the result of some damascene conversion, but sadly the reality is more cynical.
As a Conservative, I want all taxes to be as low as possible for hard-working families in our communities, but at the same time I know that the vital services that local councils provide have to be paid for. I declare an interest, as I have a brother who works in social care. To meet the urgent care of more people being likely to need greater and more expensive social care, for longer in their lives, the cost will have to be shared between central Government, local government and those who benefit most directly. Government is about making difficult choices, but instead of addressing those choices, the Opposition’s response is, “Can’t someone else pay for it?” That is not principled leadership; it is cynical opportunism. The public expect us to work together to find solutions to the greatest issues facing our country, and there can be no greater challenge than reforming social care.
A 1% increase in the cap allowed for the earmarked rise in council tax for social care works out at less than £40 per year for a household in Dudley—less than £1.20 per month. It is a necessary short-term measure while long-term reform is properly considered. We must find a sustainable solution to social care that is fair to those who need care, fair to those who provide it, and fair to the taxpayers both locally and nationally who will have to pay a share. The people we represent deserve better than the ham-fisted attempts today to score political points at the expense of short-changing our social care system.