For those of us in local government it’s hard to see Cameron’s ‘Localism’ as anything more than a cruel joke.
It’s not just about cuts, although councils have been hit the hardest of any part of government by far, it’s also about the way the Conservatives in Government have chosen to deal with local authorities. Through a combination of devolving blame and micromanagement the Department for Communities and Local Government has successfully made a difficult problem much worse.
Earlier in the year councils were given more control over council tax policy, including council tax benefit and various other deductions. But, as always, it came with a catch, councils were given only 90% of the funding they needed and told to choose which local residents would get a tax hike.
Since Council Tax Benefit made up a large part of the scheme the impact was entirely predictable. In effect, the Government had told local councils to raise a tax on their poorest residents.
It’s hard to see how anyone in any political party could see this as being a morally reasonable thing to do but at a time when more and more households are already having difficulty making ends meet it was particularly mean-spirited. The wide-reaching impact of this policy has led many to liken it to the Poll Tax, including Lord Jenkin of Roding who introduced the original Poll Tax.
Well over 150,000 people have so far being summoned to court over council tax arrears, including disabled families, carers, veterans and war widows.
While under this Government millionaires have received a tax cut, local people are being hit by the Bedroom Tax and this new Poll Tax.
Time and time again the Government has shown itself to be out of touch with the issues affecting real people: rising prices and stagnant pay packets.
We need a Government which will take real action on the rising cost of living, one ready to take on the energy companies and fight for a real Living Wage.
Until then we’re stuck with new taxes for the many and tax cuts for the wealthy few.