One development that IDS and George Osborne did not dwell upon in their Telegraph piece mentioned earlier was council tax, which, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is due to increase by £140 for the average poor family. The government has defended its spending settlement by donning its localist garb, for a moment, to argue that councils should marshal their resources with more care to protect rate payers.
The government’s aim is to shift responsibility from Whitehall to town halls in the hope of also shifting blame for unpopular policies. Local government resists. Sir Merrick Cockell, the Conservative chair of the Local Government Association, has been at pains to point out that:
‘The problem with all this is it’s a new responsibility passed to local councils by government but when they did that they cut £400m from the budget at the same time. And of course, that money has to come from somewhere. It’s either passed on to people, many of whom in the past haven’t paid any council tax, or you have to find some other way of meeting that reduction in your budget.’
Ross Clark, writing in the latest issue of the Spectator, suggests how further savings might be made by local authorities and central government: reforming support for those with learning disabilities. Ross’ daughter has learning difficulties, and he has seen at first hand why ideological presumptions about care are failing those who need help and wasting tax payers money.
PS: It has also been suggested that central government should give local authorities greater tax raising powers. This is the latest barrage in the perpetual battle over control of business rates and local charges; the reform of which, it is argued, might decentralise power in Britain, while also providing scope to stimulate growth and local businesses.
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