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Monday, September 24, 2007

Local Income Tax

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member, Dai Lloyd has a letter in this morning's Western Mail in which he attempts to defend his party against my claim that it ditched its principles in voting against an inquiry into Local Income Tax last week.

He repeats Plaid Cymru policy in favour of such a reform, claims that they are already implementing it by adopting Conservative proposals to give Council tax relief to pensioners in the One Wales agreement and argues that he and his fellow AMs voted against our motion to Plenary because they want the review to be carried out by the Assembly's Finance Committee instead.

Putting aside the dubious claim that tinkering with the existing system amounts to an effective reform, I think that Dai might might have more credibility if he gave all the facts.

His claim that the All-Wales Accord, subscribed to by both the Welsh Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru as part of the abortive Rainbow Coalition, did not mention scrapping Council Tax is correct. However, what it did propose was a review of local government finance, building on the recommendations of the Lyons Report.

That was precisely the thrust of the motion proposed by the Welsh Liberal Democrats to Plenary on Wednesday 18th September, which Plaid Cymru voted against. In that regard it is they who are performing the u-turn not us.

Dai's suggestion that Plaid Cymru wants to carry forward this review as part of the work of an Assembly Scrutiny Committee is interesting. What he is saying is that despite being part of a government with two thirds of the votes in the Chamber, Plaid want the opposition to do their job for them in developing government policy. That is hardly the independent and expert investigation that was envisaged in the All-Wales Accord. In fact it is a cop-out. Is this an indication of how little influence Plaid Cymru really have in the new government?

Furthermore, if that was Plaid Cymru's position then why did they not put down an amendment to that effect in Plenary when the matter was debated? Instead they contented themselves with supporting Labour's wrecking amendment, including deleting key passages of a motion setting out the case for a policy they are meant to support.

In the circumstances my claim that Plaid has ditched it principles seems to have some merit. Faced with a coherent, united and principled stance from the Welsh Liberal Democrats, it is they who have been caught grandstanding, not us.
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