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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Eric Pickles, a puppet master with broken strings

Today's Telegraph reports that despite strenuous efforts by the English Local Government Minister to freeze Council tax, 18 councils, including some in the Conservative heartlands, have rejected an offer of central government money that would allow them to deliver the policy.

They say that official figures indicate that 199 local authorities, about half of all councils, have so far unveiled their proposed levels of council tax from April:

Some 181 councils have agreed to freeze their levy but 18 have already warned they will increase the tax. They include Tory-controlled Surrey, Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and East Cambridgeshire.

The Government has introduced laws that would force councils to hold a referendum if they wish to increase the levy by more than 3.5 per cent. However, local authorities are typically proposing increases at just below the “referendum-trigger” threshold.

Eight councils including Brighton & Hove, Chesterfield, Darlington, and Leicester have proposed increasing their tax by 3.5 per cent. Stoke-on-Trent is proposing a 3.49 per cent rise and Gravesham an increase of 3.48 per cent.

The Government has offered councils funds to enable them to freeze the tax – and last year, every local authority took the money and did not increase the levy. The scheme was designed to help local residents following years of inflation-beating rises.

This year, some council leaders have claimed that they are only being offered a “one-off grant” and therefore have to increase the tax to ensure their finances are sustainable in the long term.

Eric Pickles, is arguing that councils have a “moral duty” to freeze the Council tax but it is becoming increasingly clear that he is finding the task of orchestrating such a complex and diverse sector too much, with the result that many are now defying his blandishments.
I was pleased to see that 3 LibDem MPs from Wales voted for devolving powers over Wales' natural resources. It's appalling that all of Wales' Labour MPs either voted against or abstained with the exception of Paul Flynn.

The Tories, as ever were opposed, and the Bill was defeated overwhelmingly by votes from English MPs.

You might have blogged on this topic Peter but it seems that Pickles' policy for England is much more important.
I dont blog on importance but on what I find most interesting
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