SOME OF OUR PARTY’S most committed activists are those embedded in the local experiences of austerity. These members rightly want to know what Labour’s offer is for local government.
With elections and budget-setting meetings nearing, some activists are demanding illegal budgets. Yet such a strategy would only split the Party and oust any councillors who dared to try it. So must we wait for a Labour government?
My idea for progressive differential council tax could plug the gap. The Localism Act 2011 allows local authorities to set council tax rates while holding a referendum for any increase beyond a centrally determined cap. This means a Labour council with the backing of voters could decide to raise council tax by substantially more than that cap, while committing to full discounts for people living in lower banded properties, provided for by the 2012 Local Government Finance Act.
A local authority could, for example, propose to double council tax and then promise full discounts to those living in bands A to C, followed by an 80% discount for band D (in effect a 20% increase), 60% for those in the next band, and so on, with only those living in band H properties paying double. But there are many permutations.
In addition, an extension to the current council tax support schemes could help low income residents living in higher band homes. Most local authorities are already planning to increase their council tax by 5.99%, meaning that for most local residents, such a referendum would be a choice between that rise combined with further service cuts, or a council tax freeze and a cash injection into the local budget.
Clearly, to reverse the cuts to corporation tax and to regionally balance our economy Britain needs Jeremy and John in Downing Street; yet jam tomorrow won’t solve austerity today.