'No turning,' people say to Blair

AS PRIME minister Tony Blair was telling his party today he's not turning back, householders from Suffolk and across the country were sending a powerful message to him – they'll be no u-turns in their determination either!Council tax payers won't give up on calls for fair increases next year.

AS PRIME minister Tony Blair was telling his party today he's not turning back, householders from Suffolk and across the country were sending a powerful message to him – they'll be no u-turns in their determination either!

Council tax payers won't give up on calls for fair increases next year.

"We still feel very angry about the rises in April and they don't want to think they can get away with it again," said an angry Ray Burgess from Carlton Road in Kesgrave.

"There are lots of us who feel that way – there are a load of wasters on the council and in government and the campaign will carry on."

Back in April Mr Burgess urged people not to pay the 18.5 per cent rise demanded by the county council.

The non-payment campaign did not take off – but the anger felt by many people led to the foundation of the pressure group People Against Council Tax in Suffolk (PACTS).

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It is now affiliated with similar groups from across southern England – and supporters from the south west were demonstrating outside the Labour Party's Bournemouth conference as Mr Blair was making his speech today.

The fury mounted as it emerged that local council chiefs from across Britain were warning that council tax bills could go up next year by more than the government estimated – and that could lead to more capping and services being cut.

Today's protesters at Bournemouth were calling for fair bills for households and fair treatment from the government.

They want Whitehall to give councils enough to maintain services but be prepared to cap authorities which attempt extortionate increases.

Mr Blair was today telling his Labour Party's annual conference there could be no turning back from controversial policies on foundation hospitals and top-up tuition fees for graduates, no matter how unpopular they might be.

Mr Blair was also making no apologies for the war in Iraq, saying the world - and the UK - was now a safer place because of the coalition forces' action.

But the council tax was not expected to feature in what was being seen as the most crucial speech of his career.

The anger stirred up by the council tax rises across the country could still prove one of his greatest dangers, however.

Back in 1990 the Conservative leadership ignored rising feeling against the poll tax – until Margaret Thatcher was thrown out of office by her own MPs.

Now the government is increasingly being seen as the cause – rather than the solution – of the massive council tax hike.

"It is so difficult to understand who is responsible for what has happened," said PACTS member Roger Marchant from Main Road in Kesgrave.

"We have found exactly what the Star has discovered – that the system for calculating who gets what from whom makes it possible for everyone to blame each other."

Councils and households across the country will be watching to see whether central government gives local authorities enough money to maintain services without above-inflation council tax increases next year.

Opinion polls suggest voters won't easily forgive a government that can find the money to send its troops out to Iraq to get killed in an American-led war but can't find the money to give councils enough to run schools or look after the elderly and most vulnerable people in the community.

Mr Blair was saying today that he isn't turning back in his determination to reform public services.

Protesters from across the country were today giving him the same message back – they're not turning back from their determination to see council tax rises pegged.

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