Leicester City Labour Council has just launched a public consultation on council tax payments. As the Council’s website put it: “changes are being considered to council tax reduction schemes (also known as council tax support schemes)”. By way of an explanation, they add:
“Continued cuts in government funding mean that Leicester City Council is looking to make substantial budget savings. We are consulting on whether some of this could be achieved by changing the way we administer our council tax reduction scheme.”
Thus, once again, we have the tragic situation where Sir Peter Soulsby’s Labour Council is ‘consulting’ the people of Leicester about whether they support the idea of singling out the poorest and most vulnerable members of our city to demand that they increase their tax contributions.
As the Leicester Mercury (August 4) summarised: “Nearly 20,000 of Leicester’s most hard-up households face having to pay a greater share of their council tax bills, under new proposals.”
Indeed, with Tory attacks upon the impoverished growing by the day, this is surely a strange way of fighting Tory austerity? But the question that needs to be asked is whether or not this actually represents a real consultation, or has the decision to punish-the-poor already been taken?
Sue Waddington, assistant city mayor with responsibility for council tax, appears to believe that the consultation is genuine. “No decisions have yet been made,” she said to the Mercury, “so it’s really important that people give us their views and have their say by taking part in this consultation.” (August 4)
So what should the public consequently make of the article Sir Peter Soulsby published in the summer edition of Leicester Link magazine? In this article, published well before the launch of the consultation, Sir Peter makes it apparent that the poor will just have to cough up and pay more tax, or else he will just have to cut more services. He made clear:
“Due to government cuts to Leicester City Council’s funding, we need to make changes. In future, most working-age people who receive a reduction are likely to pay a greater amount towards their bill.
“We are asking everyone in Leicester for their views on how the council can best achieve this change in a fair way.”
According to Soulsby changes need to be made to achieve change. Soulsby however is living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks that his planned changes can be made in a fair way.
Yet despite Soulsby’s attempt to skew the consultation, it turns out that people can still support “Option 1” which calls upon the Council to “Make no change at all to the current scheme.”
This principled position of socialist opposition to yet another attack on the poor is supported by Gavin George, the chairman of the Leicester South branch of the Labour Party. Writing on the letters page of the Leicester Mercury (July 16 – see below) Gavin asked whether this was “a plan of a Labour council to redistribute resources from the least well-off to the more affluent?”
Then, after highlighting the high level of deprivation faced many of Leicester’s residents, Gavin concluded by asking another important question:
“Will the city councillors who represent these most deprived areas in England stand up for their constituents and oppose any reductions to council tax support?”
To date it seems that the answer to that question is no.
This comes on top of the sad (but easily changeable) fact that 98% of our city’s 52 strong Labour councillors are failing to stand up for their constituents who duly elected Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of their party.
I say this because so far only one lone Leicester city councillor, Patrick Kitterick, has signed a public statement which backs Corbyn in his ongoing bid to retain his leadership position against the undemocratic manoeuvres of Labour’s many less-than-representative MPs and councillors.
If you think all this more than a little concerning, then do take a couple of minutes to complete the online consultation and then speak to your local Labour councillor and ask them what they think about the idea of democracy and socialism.