Council Tax: Government’s Proposed Increase

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:55 pm on 25th January 2021.

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Photo of Paul Maynard Paul Maynard Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys 4:55 pm, 25th January 2021

May I start by praising both Blackpool and Wyre Councils, controlled by two different political parties, for their superb efforts on behalf of local constituents?

There was a fascinating letter in The Times last week from a lady in Hertfordshire, accusing the Conservatives of complaining about Labour’s playing politics with Opposition day debates. She wrote:

“The opposition had asked for a serious debate, which is exactly what parliament is for.”

I agree that serious debate is what we are here for, but she must never have watched any of these Opposition day debates; or if she has, she must surely be seriously disappointed at the poor quality of contributions from Labour Members.

There is a real irony in Labour lecturing us about council tax. I know that Labour does not like losing elections—who does?—but it takes some nerve to expect a Conservative Government to bail out Labour councils for the calamitous choices they have made and that they fear putting before the voters in their local areas. This debate is like a dog riding a bicycle: the Labour party is not doing it very well at all, but it is astonishing that it should even try to do so in the first place.

If anyone wants to know about Labour’s plans for local government spending, they need only look around them. Council tax doubled under the last Labour Government. Sadiq Khan in London wants a 10% increase because he cannot put a decent transport strategy in place. In Wales it has gone up by one third, showing just how awful Labour is at managing its own devolved services in the Principality.

Let us look at what the Government are actually proposing: an increase of up to 2% for general purposes and of up to 3% for social care, to address increasing demand for both children’s and elderly services. Labour has no answer to how to meet that increased demand. The Government protect resident interests with a referendum block on rises above 5%. Labour wants to abolish that—it hates the idea of local people telling it what to do. To avoid any local accountability, it advocates a nationally set, progressive property tax, with an end to the single person’s discount. Where is the local flexibility in that?

Labour’s attitude overlooks all the extra covid funding that the Government have given to local councils, including up to £150 million in my constituency, spent prudently and wisely on behalf of local people. I do not like the term “left behind”, but one thing is for sure: it is Labour that is leaving behind communities in constituencies such as mine. It is a party bereft of ideas and of interest in anything outside its London-centric metropolitan elite who know nothing of reality in towns like mine.

The adage of council tax is devastatingly simple and is just a few words: “Conservative councils cost you less.”