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With respect, that begs the question what system there will be at the end of the process. It is true that for a Government bent on centralising in local government there are major attractions in safety valves and other mechanisms based on ministerial discretion.
We heard a great deal about simplified formulas, especially from the hon. Member for Stafford, who speaks with some knowledge about such matters, and from Mr. Drew. Mr. Brake was sensible not to dwell on Liberal Democrat policies of increased income tax, local income tax and regional tax and support for the Government's imposition of extra burdens on the motorist.
The important aspect of all this complexity, and the interesting and arcane discussions to which it leads, is the effect that it has on real people. Despite the Government's projections, this year there will be a further average increase of 6.4 per cent. in council tax--that is three times the rate of inflation. In Staffordshire, it is more than 8 per cent.; in East Sussex, it is close to 10 per cent. That is wholly unacceptable to ordinary people, especially pensioners, who, in effect, are having to pay a new stealth tax.