“Councils Pick Widows’ Pockets” screamed the Sunday Express headline, in yet another example of Dirty Des’ finest saying something untrue, but with the underlying story being based around a kernel of fact. And this one has a bonus, with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles being caught in an act of routine hypocrisy as he has shot first and not asked questions at all.
That kernel of fact is the Government move to “localise” support for Council Tax in England. This is, in reality, a double-edged sword: councils get more decision making power over the range of tax discounts offered, but they also get 10% less money from central Government (more information HERE). So there will be a shortfall to make up, if tax rises are to be avoided.
Each council has given its response to the Government consultation, and it is some of these that the Express has picked up on. And the discount that has taxed Des’ hacks is that for single person occupancy, which at present automatically gives 25% off Council Tax. Many of the responses have suggested that the discount might cease to become an automatic one.
This has been enough for the Express to claim that there is not merely a plot, but an Organised Labour Plot. This, though, is undermined by the inclusion in the list of shame of Colchester Borough Council, where there are only seven Labour councillors to 24 Tories and 26 Lib Dems. Bedford, also mentioned, has just 12 Labour councillors out of a total of 41.
But this has been enough for Fat Eric to pronounce “There is clearly a well-orchestrated campaign being run by the Labour Party to target the elderly, single mothers and the most vulnerable. They want to punish people who have worked hard all their lives and paid their taxes simply because they live on their own. There is a gross sense of injustice at raising taxes that could force people out of their homes. This is a widows tax and shows how out of touch Labour is”.
Perhaps, then, Fat Eric could explain this snippet from one council’s response to the consultation on “localising” support for Council Tax (Paragraph 17): “Significant savings could be achieved by abolishing automatic discounts for particular categories and incorporating all support into one comprehensive means tested scheme. Savings could therefore be achieved from people more able to pay rather than just the most vulnerable in society” [my emphases].
The name of that council is Epping Forest Borough Council. Much of its area is within the parliamentary constituency of Brentwood and Ongar, where the serving MP is one Eric Pickles. So Fat Eric is fine with a majority Tory council in his own back yard doing it, but if Labour do the same thing, it’s wrong. There’s proper hypocrisy for you.