Peter Soulsby’s Poll Tax

Sir Peter Soulsby has been the leader of Leicester’s Labour-run Council for more years than many people would care to remember. During his time in power Soulsby has therefore done many memorable things, and most memorably perhaps — in the early 1990s — he did the bidding of Margaret Thatcher by implementing the Tories hated Poll Tax.

Writing at the time of these events for the May Day issue of “Leicester Worker” (a regular publication produced by the Leicester and Districts Trades Union Council), Trades Council president Dave Thomas wrote:

So far the level of public opposition to the Poll Tax locally and nationally has been huge.

In Leicester when the City Council set the rate at £405 on 7th March [1990] there was a large local protest. I was one of the few ‘lucky’ enough to get inside the Council chamber to see our glorious Labour Councillors sell out to the Government’s Tax. Credit must be given to the ten Labour Councillors who resisted the Tax and I found the speeches of Councillor’s [Margaret] Bodell-Stagg and [Robert] Waterton particularly principled. But the response of Soulsby and Co. could only be described as sickening. In a reply to pressure from his Union Councillor D.A. Thomas (NOT me I hasten to add) makes the fatuous point:

“…you cannot have it both ways. You cannot have both the jobs and services without the Poll Tax.”

Did we really elect a Labour Council to hear this sort of rubbish? It is bad enough to have unfair legislation forced on us by the Government without having local ‘Labour’ politicians falling over each other to enact it.” (“Don’t pay the poll tax,” Leicester Worker, No.16, 1990)

An article carried on these events in the Leicester Mercury (March 8) titled “Labour budget rebels on the carpet” noted that “Labour Chief Whip Councillor Ned Newitt would not comment on the action he intended to recommend, other than to say: ‘It will be more than minimal.’”

Either way mass, and eventually successful, campaigning against the Poll Tax continued, and in August 1990 local Trades Council member Paul Henderson submitted the following letter to the Leicester Mercury that remained unpublished. It was however subsquently reproduced in the January 1991 issue of the Leicester Worker. Henderson, in his capacity as a spokesperson for the Leicester Anti-Registration Campaign, wrote:

Councillor Dave Thomas, our City Treasurer, really should stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

His claim that 90% of people who were dragged before the courts for not paying the poll tax have now ‘come to an agreement’ with the city council is ludicrous in the light of the rest of the article, which shows that, of the 1000 people summonsed, 750 (75% by my accounting) had liability orders made against them.

This means that attachment to earnings orders can be made against them, or the bailiffs can be called in. Those who come to some kind of agreement under these conditions can hardly be said to be ‘consenting’.

The kind of doublespeak that councillor Thomas indulges in ranks with the statement that 99% of people had registered for the poll tax. As the city council knew, and as those of us know who were registered behind our backs and without our consent, at least 15% did not register ourselves at all. The job was done for use by a network of spies.

The fantasy world that the Labour councillors live in arises from the fact that they need to pretend to have our consent.

Otherwise, they would have to face up to the fact that they are acting as servants of Mrs Thatcher. They are imposing a tax on the people that is bitterly resented, even by those who are paying. There is a large number of people who have no intention of paying, just as they had no intention of registering.

Councillor Thomas and his friends should act with honesty and join the Tories, so that we could all know where we stand. Alternatively, they could recognise that they have no mandate to carry out this attack, resign and let Mrs Thatcher do her own dirty work.

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