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ELECTION 2005: 'LABOUR'S SECRET COUNCIL TAX BOMBSHELL'

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The Conservatives have called on Labour to come clean about their secret plan to hammer hard-working families after...
The Conservatives have called on Labour to come clean about their secret plan to hammer hard-working families after a Labour minister let slip plans to scrap the council tax.

Labour transport minister, Charlotte Atkins, whose responsibilities include 'local authority public transport' and 'regional and sub-regional issues' told the BBC yesterday: 'It is our policy to review the system. We are scrapping the present system because it is regressive.'

What is unclear is just who will pay under Labour's latest new tax from their stealth manifesto.

Shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin has written to Gordon Brown asking for the details of the tax increases buried in Labour's stealth manifesto.

Mr Blair's government must answer the following questions urgently:

1. Have you or the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister received any interim report or findings from the Lyons Inquiry? If so, will you publish them?

2. Can you confirm that the revaluation process would be revenue neutral? If not, what is the maximum amount of extra revenue it could raise?

3. Can you confirm that any rebanding process would be revenue neutral? If not, what is the maximum amount of extra revenue it could raise?

4. Might you add new bands to the council tax system?

5. What ratios would be required between the bands to make the system sufficiently progressive?

6. Who would have to pay more and who could pay less as the system became less 'regressive'?

7. Is there a maximum number of households that may have to pay more as a result of your reforms? If so, what is it?

8. What is the maximum increase in council tax that you would contemplate as a result of (a) rebanding, (b) revaluation and (c) other changes, for families in each of the eight existing property bands?

9. When is the earliest date on which a re-elected Labour government might introduce changes to council tax following the Lyons Inquiry?

10. If your policy is to 'retain and reform' council tax, which features of the current system are you committed to retaining and which might you change if re-elected?

11. The Lyons Inquiry was asked to 'analyse the options for shifting the balance of funding, including local income tax, reform of business rates and other possible local taxes and charges' (ODPM press release, 20 July 2004). Are these options still under consideration? If so, how soon might a Labour government introduce them? Will you publish a list of local taxes and charges that a Labour government might legislate to introduce?

12.Will you concede that council tax revaluation in Wales has increased the tax yield. How do you square this with the pledge in the 2001 Local Government White Paper that the revaluations would be fiscally neutral?

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