Thursday, 31 January 2013

SEDGEMOOR APPROVES COUNCIL TAX SCHEME "Regressive Tax on Working Age Residents" say Labour

Mick Lerry rises to put the Labour position
Sedgemoor  has become the final District Council within Somerset to  agree how they will deal with the  Coalition Governments new  Localisation of Council Tax plan.  Under the Legislation, Councils are faced with National support cutbacks of 10% whilst  being compelled to  put the burden onto benefit claimants.

Labour Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Lab,Victoria)  branded the Legislation "a regressive tax on working age residents on low incomes" and moved a Labour ammendment to this effect. Sadly this was only supported by Labour members and the 2 Highbridge independents.

"There could be some issues with collection"

Sedgemoors Finance officer Alison Turner said Sedgemoor had consulted widely on the changes  and in particular had listened to it's Community Scrutiny Committee chaired by Labour's Cllr Julian Taylor (Lab,Eastover) which had argued for the maximum possible support to offset the potentially devastating effect of the changes. Mrs Turner admitted "there could be some issues with collection".

Sedgemoor voted to set the support at 85% - in line with South Somerset & West Somerset -where Labour councillors had recently fought to lift the Tory proposal from 70%- and a better deal than in Taunton Deane and Mendip where the figure was set at 80%.

"Regressive tax on working people"

Cllr Lerry said  "This is yet another tax  on people and it's sad that we find ourselves in this situation. We will support the 15% position in the circumstances because it's fair, cost neutral and won't put additional pressures on other precepting authorities - particularly Bridgwater Town Council which would suffer unduly from a poorer settlement. We have fought to put in place a  hardship policy and we accept there will be a higher proportion of uncollected tax . We have also taken special measures to protect  child maintenance. But this scheme is a regressive tax on working people on low incomes and it will not help put people back into work."
Cllr Baker- ex Liberal , now Tory, but will his guilt now take
him elsewhere? Cllr Williams 'has a chat'.

"Guilty intervention"

Cllr David Baker (Con,Wyndham) made a sudden break with his bewildered colleagues outlining exactly why the tax was unfair and how it would hit people on low incomes and proposed a further ammendment to take funds from reserves to reduce the payment to 8.5%. He was seconded by independent Chris Williams (Ind,Highbridge) but found no further support.

Cllr Mick Lerry said "Cllr Baker doesn't see that this will still  have to be dealt with in a years time . It's no good just stamping your feet and saying 'No'. This has a knock on effect to the other precepting authorities. If people don't like this then they need to vote out the Government at the next election."

Cllr  Mark Healey (Con, Puriton) leapt to his feet saying "The SDC position is more than fair and when I hear Cllr Baker I wonder if I might as well just give up working and get a divorce and I'd be better off! And to listen to Cllr Lerry anyone would think there was an election coming up!".

Cllr Healy is a Candidate for  the County Council elections in May.

The Lib Dem benches. 100% empty.
"Appallingly poorly attended meeting"

Cllr Brian Smedley (Lab. Westover)  commented afterwards "The meeting was appallingly poorly attended and I wonder if a lot of this was due to the Monitoring officers well publicised advice that members in receipt of benefit weren't able to take part or vote in the meeting. This was a depressing affair and Labour supported the fairest option available which also protected Bridgwater towns position . It was odd to see Cllr Baker suddenly get a social conscience, but I suspect his position was more one of guilt at what his party was doing and knowing full well he wouldn't get his  ammendment passed. It was also not a surprise to see the Lib Dem benches totally empty again, despite them winning the Highbridge by-election last week as I thought they might have something to say and make an impact with their new councillor. But that was probably just wishful thinking."

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