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BYERS CALLS FOR A LOCAL VOTE ON COUNCIL TAX INCREASES AND URGES CAUTION TO CHANGES IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE

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Speaking today at the New Local Government Network conference on the future of the council tax the former local gov...
Speaking today at the New Local Government Network conference on the future of the council tax the former local government minister Stephen Byers called for there to be a more direct link between the wishes of local people and increases in the level of council tax. He said that any proposed increase at more than double the rate of inflation (presently 5.2%) should be subject to approval by a vote amongst local people.

He also urged caution on rushing to make fundamental changes to present system, saying that such an approach has bedevilled local government over many years.

Mr Byers said:

'Any proposal to increase the council tax by a certain amount - say twice the headline rate of inflation, which at present would be 5.2 per cent - should only go ahead after an affirmative vote from local electors.

'A local vote for local priorities - this must be the way forward in the 21st century. It really does give power to the people and puts the burden on local councils to show what they will deliver for the extra spending and convince people that it will be money well spent.'

On the need for caution in making changes, he said:

'It is important that in the light of present difficulties we don't have a knee jerk reaction, jump to the wrong conclusions and introduce changes in haste that make things worse. Looking back we can see that local government finance has been bedevilled by such reactions.

'Today I come neither to bury the council tax nor to praise it, but to say that whilst council tax is unsustainable in its present form I do believe that a local property tax based on a reformed council tax should remain a key and important part of local council funding.

'We should make no apologies for being cautious in our approach to the raft of new taxes being proposed like local income tax.'

A full copy of the speech is available here.

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