Tuesday, 8 January 2008

County Council and Council Tax

The County Council – or rather than new Unitary Transitional Authority – received a very generous settlement grant from Government for next year. In fact, that’s one of the good things about the new unitary authority – the Government are going to be pumping resources into the county to make sure their decision proves right.

Of course, it all depends on how you spend the extra money – which is why the County Council’s announcement that they’d be limiting their Council Tax rise to 1.8% - and how they’d do that, is so interesting.

In giving us a unitary authority – which will allegedly and eventually save us £17M a year – the Government has already decided that we would prefer low taxes to democratic accountability. Now the County Council are backing this up with an implicit decision that we would prefer low taxes to decent services – or services free at the point of delivery. It’s the sort of thing I’d expect from a Conservative government and council – but not from a Labour government and council. Though – these days it’s very hard to tell the parties apart.

It certainly doesn’t make sense to put the burden of the cost of home care and day care for the elderly and disabled on the most deprived people rather than share it out more amongst those who can afford it.
And it doesn’t make sense to penalise A-level students on travel costs when you’re trying to raise educational aspirations in the county.

I don’t have a huge income (no! honest!) but I’d be prepared to pay more than a 1.8% increase in council tax if I knew the money was being well used.
Now, I may be out on my own here – maybe people do prefer lower taxes and poorer services (or ‘small government’ as the Republicans put it). But for me, the sign of civilisation is that the strong protect the vulnerable – and taxation is just a way of institutionalising this.

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