Council tax not top priority for MP

MORE than 200 coupons about council tax have now arrived back at The Evening Star's office in Ipswich . . . but the town's MP doesn't believe it's the "over-riding" political issue of the day!But while Labour's Chris Mole is unconcerned about the council tax rumpus, Suffolk's Tory MPs are promising to hunt down government ministers "like a pack of dogs" on the issue once parliament reconvenes later this month.

MORE than 200 coupons about council tax have now arrived back at The Evening Star's office in Ipswich . . . but the town's MP doesn't believe it's the "over-riding" political issue of the day!

But while Labour's Chris Mole is unconcerned about the council tax rumpus, Suffolk's Tory MPs are promising to hunt down government ministers "like a pack of dogs" on the issue once parliament reconvenes later this month.

Mr Mole said he had received some letters from constituents about the increase in council tax.

"But is not the over-riding issue that is dominating my postbag – and I don't really want to stir one issue up in that way," he said.

However one of Mr Mole's constituents 67-year-old Edward Prior, of Kemball Street, felt Mr Mole was out of touch with the feelings of people in Ipswich.

Mr Prior, who lives with his wife Enid, 63, said: "I have really gone off Mr Mole to be quite honest, because of his attitude. The Labour government are supposed to be for the working man.

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"We are pensioners and all our savings are going. I don't think he understands the issue for pensioners. We saved our money for retirement and now we are having to spend it. It's just ridiculous.

"I wouldn't vote for him and there are a lot more like us."

Another Ipswich pensioner Rosemary Buckland, although not one of Mr Mole's constituents, was appalled more was not being done by MPs to help reduce council tax for OAPs.

She said: "I think we are all annoyed with it. We are on a fixed income."

The 67-year-old, who lives in the Crofts area of Ipswich, said nearly 13 per cent of her income went on council tax.

"It's a lot of money to pay each month. It's more than I ever had as a mortgage.

"I think if you speak to a lot of pensioners they all agree it's getting beyond what you can pay. I think Mr Mole should come out and speak to us. They (MPs) don't care as long as they get in."

Mr Mole insisted he was working behind the scenes to ensure Suffolk got a fair deal from the government when grants are announced later this year.

"I had a breakfast meeting with Nick Raynsford (local government minister) this morning and we discussed the council tax issue.

"The government does not expect to see significant council tax rises next year," he said.

But while the Labour MP was in a relaxed mood about the tax – and prime minister Tony Blair made no mention of it in his conference speech this week – Suffolk's Tory MPs were limbering up for a fight.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley – whose constituency includes Stowmarket and Needham Market – was preparing to go hunting!

"This is the political issue of the moment – it's dominating our postbags and there is very real anger about it in the constituencies.

"All Suffolk's opposition MPs have discussed this and we will be harrying the government as soon as parliament returns. We'll be hunting as a pack," he said.

Mr Ruffley said Tory MPs across southern England were likely to co-operate to keep the issue at the top of the political agenda.

"Not that it needs much help to stay there! But we will be asking questions about it at every question time with Blair, Brown and Prescott.

"We'll be putting down emergency debates and opposition day debates in the House of Commons.

"There's a limit to what we can do because of the massive government majority – but we're not going to give them any breathing space at all on this," he said.

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