Labour Taxes the Shires; Shire Taxation Madness Hague's Fury over 'Horrendous' Rises
Worrall, Boris, Summers, Deborah, The Birmingham Post (England)
Residents in the Midland shire counties face a council tax bombshell with inflation-busting rises.
Bills will increase for most homeowners by at least pounds 50, despite the Government's pledge of the "most generous ever" settlement. Many rural areas are poised for increases of up to ten per cent, according to a survey byThe Post.
Last night, Mrs Gillian Shephard, the Tory spokeswoman for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, attacked the figures as "horrendous" and claimed the Government was targeting Conservatives in the shires.
"Here we have all the Midland shire counties being hammered. It is blatantly political and makes a mockery of the Government's insistence of rises under 4.5 per cent," she said.
"These figures are absolutely horrendous. If this is the so-called best settlement, then heaven knows what would be the worst.
"It appears to have been arranged to make things difficult for people in rural areas who the Government suspects are Conservative supporters."
Residents in bigger country homes will face even larger increases of more than pounds 100 and that is before additional charges are added for the police, fire and district/parish council levies, which can bump the final bill up by another pounds 150 to pounds 200.
The figures emerged as Tory leader Mr William Hague protested in the Commons that taxes had gone by pounds 260 for every taxpayer in the two Budgets since Labour came to power.
He mocked the Prime Minister for apparently finding the figures a shock. But Mr Tony Blair insisted the Government had kept to its pledge not to raise the basic or higher rates of income tax.
Worcestershire County Council is due to consider a 10.7 per cent tax increase today, taking average band D property bills of pounds 510 to pounds 565 - before police, fire and district precepts - to offset a pounds 6 million budget shortfall.
Coun Carol Warren (Lab Stourport-Severn), leader of the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in Worcestershire, said the shires had suffered under Labour's settlement, which was biased towards urban areas and the South-east.
Shropshire, a Lib Dem-Labour coalition, has approved an increase of 9.7 per cent taking the average bill from pounds 555 to pounds 609. …