Should Conservative councils cut council tax for all or give rebates to some?
Lord Hanningfield, leader of Essex CC, hopes to work with the Department of Work & Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs to identify those most deserving of help. Poorer families, pensioners and servicemen's families are apparently most in his mind:
“A lot of people are suffering, particularly old people, through increases in energy and food costs and this wouldn't just be for people over 65. Our job as a county council is to help these people. Essex (County Council) is for Essex people and they are suffering and are likely to suffer even more in the winter.”
The move has been welcomed by Mark Wallace of the TaxPayers' Alliance. Mr Wallace told the EADT that "economic conditions are increasingly difficult and taxes are placing an intolerable burden on household budgets.” Some will wonder, however, about the administrative complexity of Essex's proposal and whether rather than targeting relief on some families it would be more sensible to deliver across-the-board cuts in council tax. The Guardian contrasts the Essex approach with Hammersmith & Fulham's delivery of a 3% cut in council tax over two successive years.
This is not the first time that Essex Tories have been willing to embrace an innovative approach to a topical problem. Earlier this year the Council put aside £1.5m to save endangered post offices. The Council also runs an online vote on spending priorities. Participants in the vote can win £50 a week.