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Danny Alexander's letter to LGA heads

December 16, 2014 10:00 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has written to the Conservative and Labour LGA heads - Cllr Gary Porter and Cllr Jim McMahon on the issue of council tax.

Dear Gary/Jim,

As you may be aware, there have been some discussions in the past few weeks regarding the level at which the Council Tax referendum threshold should be set.

While some Conservative colleagues in the Coalition Government favour leaving the cap at the level that it is, other Conservative colleagues have argued in favour of lowering the threshold to 1%. In practice, this would mean that even the smallest rise in Council Tax would result in Local Authorities having to hold a referendum.

As I am sure you know, only one Liberal Democrat authority raised Council Tax at all last year and this level of discipline and protection for Council Tax payers has been a consistent trait of Liberal Democrat councils throughout this Parliament. Many more Labour and Conservative controlled councils chose to increase Council Tax last year.

The Liberal Democrats have long believed in devolving power to the most local level, on the principle that the best decisions tend to be made by those closest to the people those decisions effect. It is for this reason, that the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government will not support proposals to lower the referendum threshold.

Because of the state of the public finances, we are having to ask a lot of Local Authorities, who, by and large, are rising to the challenge of cutting expenditure while protecting important public services. Lowering the threshold will put unnecessary further pressure on local authorities and the much needed services they provide.

Lowering the threshold is a change of policy that puts an unnecessary further constraint on local authorities. While I would strongly argue for local authorities to protect taxpayers from rises in Council Tax, nevertheless this is a choice that should rightly be made by Local Authorities and not be imposed centrally.

While Conservative and Labour Councils have been quick to increase Council Tax, Lib Dems have not. In the end, these councils should be accountable to their electorates. It is not for central government to impose such constraints.

Yours Sincerely,

Danny Alexander MP

Chief Secretary to the Treasury