Council tax veto questioned on grounds of democracy and fairness

By staff writers
July 31, 2010

Unlock Democracy says government plans to allow the public to veto council tax increases in England above a limit agreed annually by Parliament are substituting one form of centralism for another.

Others question the exercise as a cipher for more cuts and a 'smaller state' ideology.

Peter Facey, director of the campaign group, commented: "These measures are a welcome first step however upon detailed inspection represent a half way house. While we welcome the coalition’s rhetoric about empowering communities, if they truly believed in local people making local decisions, they should not be proposing to set the cap themselves."

He continued: "The key test of localism for any Government is not about simply empowering local communities to do what they want them to do, but recognising what they have the right to do, even when they may disagree."

Added Facey: "It should be left to local people to trigger a referendum at any level if they can raise a petition with the signatories of five per cent of registered voters. At present these proposals [do] not fully empower citizens and communities but just substitute one form of central control with another."

Others have suggested that the measure is not about democracy at all, but is a way of getting voters to absolve politicians for responsibility for cuts in services, which would inevitably follow a significant fall in council tax in many cases.

Some community groups argue that a local income tax would be a fairer and more progressive way of funding local provision.

One of Church Action on Poverty's fairness tests is, “Are people contributing tax proportionate to their ability to pay?”

There is also concern that a reductionist 'localism' in wealthy areas will further penalise and disadvantage the less well off.

Trade unions and anti-poverty charities say that living wages, a reform of tax to redistribute wealth, and government commitment to decent health, education and welfare provision are prerequisites for meaningful choice - nationally, regionally and locally.

Also on Ekklesia: 'An urgent moral case for tax justice', by Jill Segger -


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