Council tax result still unclear

SO WE are now a very little bit nearer knowing what we'll all be paying in council tax next year – but it could be some time before we know the exact size of the bills.

SO WE are now a very little bit nearer knowing what we'll all be paying in council tax next year – but it could be some time before we know the exact size of the bills.

On the Evening Star we've had a stab at "guestimating" a rough ball-park figure for next year's rises.

But that is all we have been able to do at this stage – say that if x and y happens then the council tax will be z.

Over the last few days I've heard all kinds of strange predictions from various people, some of whom claim to be "in the know" others have just taken educated guesses.

One person, with connections at the county council, insisted that there would be no rise at all next year.

"They've over-calculated what they needed this year and won't need to put up council tax," he told me.

Most Read

Another person was sure that the rise would be only about 5.5 per cent, twice the rate of inflation, to avoid any risk of the the tax being capped.

Many people have insisted that the council tax rate will be kept just under 10pc, and on Tuesday we pointed out that if the government increase was the same as last, the council would need to increase bills by 12 per cent to retain services at the current level.

That was a figure that no one at the county was disputing when we first published it – but my gut feeling is that the council and the government will scrabble about desperately to get the increase down to single figures.

I'm not convinced the government will cap councils – especially those which are Labour-led.

It remains easier for a Labour minister to say he will cap the tax when the taxpayers are baying than it is for him to tell a council to sack social workers and home-helps.

So what will next year's council tax increase be? You pays your money and you takes your choice.

To digress slightly. With social services budgets at real strain because the government hasn't given the council as much as it needs, isn't it appalling that £1 million of taxpayers money was spent on security at a County Durham pub so President Bush can have lunch there tomorrow?

What kind of society do we live in when we can't find the money for home helps for elderly and disabled people who need them but can find millions of pounds to help the re-election campaign of a foreign head of state?

WHEN I wrote a feature article about asylum seekers last week I expected to get some reaction.

I was right, but the tone of this reaction left me feeling very, very sad.

I had originally written a point by point rebuttal to the letters we have received, but I came to the conclusion that publication of this would be futile.

It was clear that the writers either hadn't read the article or didn't believe a word of it – so they would probably feel the same way about anything else I wrote on the subject.

I LOVED a leaflet I saw the other day that's been distributed by surviving Labour candidates in the Whitehouse Ward of Ipswich.

Announcing that they wanted the views of local people on what play equipment they wanted in a new playground in the ward, they came up with the line: "You can win on the swings but not lose on the roundabouts with Labour."

Great slogan, chaps. Much better than: "We're writing to you now because we lost a seat in this ward in May and we want to prove that we're not only interested in the area when there's an election in the wind!"