Saturday, 9 February 2013

Medway Council and unfair taxes

On the day the Liberal Democrats across the country are campaigning for fairer taxes we are faced with silly and unfair taxes here in Medway as this press release shows;

It was disappointing to learn from the Council, in response to my question last Thursday, that they are intent on pursuing a council tax policy which will result in an enormous waste of taxpayers money.  Charging council tax to the poorest in our community, and then pursuing those who cannot pay with the resultant magistrates court costs and officers time, may result in those who have low paid jobs, and stay put, being sent to prison, and those without jobs simply ‘disappearing’.

The Tories don’t seem to have learnt the lesson from the days of the iniquitous

 ‘Poll Tax’ when large numbers of ordinary citizens were sent to prison for short periods, thus gaining a criminal record, and councils still had the costs of trying to collect arrears which could paid off at the princely rate of 50p a week!

The councils own reports freely admit that the cost of collection will probably be more than the monies collected, so the council tax for the rest of us will have to increase to make up the deficit.  Mickey Mouse economics or what?  There are other options, such as raising tax on second homes and empty properties – this could not only increase revenue but bring back into use many of  the empty, neglected properties which blight our towns and deprive families of much needed homes.  Why can’t the council pursue this ‘win-win’ option rather than using time and resources to make the situation worse?

This was a matter raised at Full council the other week by Vivienne Parker of Rochester South and Horsted Liberal Democrats who posed a question on the night.

With the Cut from central government coming down to the local authorities many councils will have to look at raising the local taxes. According to a report in the Medway Messenger there could be as many as 14,000 households across the towns will have to cough up 25% of the new bill even though they were exempt due to low earnings in the past - 700 homes will have an extra £400 a year just to fill the void of the £4million hole.

I understand that the Council needs money but to strike the poor like this seems somewhat uncaring and ill thought out. Surely there must be another way?

Cllr Stamp (Ind) said For someone on a fixed low income it will just plunge them further into debt and they will have to make difficult decisions whether to buy food or put the heating on.

Made even more poignant when you realise the average reported (To the CAB) debt in the Medway towns is around £40k!!!!

It wouldn't seem so bad if the council weren't seen to be wasting money on vanity projects and overspends with poor planning - money just poured down the drain with the knowledge that there would come cuts one day from central government. It all seems very Victorian.

What did Conservative Councillor Jarrett portfolio holder for Finance have to say?

He began by blaming Labour's economic mess, which frankly is an over used argument considering the fact that this council has been wasteful and could have seen this cut on the horizon for years - I know I have and I'm just some bloke on the street!

Also the courts have the right to write off debts people can't pay for... Great! So we have to take people to court to find they can't pay and then let them off.
Let me get this straight... we spend money to get money out of people we already know don't have it and then write off the original debt... but still spending money on taking them to court... Brilliance!

To the concerns of rising poverty he said;
I do share some of the concerns but we are where we are. - Thanks Al.

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