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Local Government Finance

Volume 171: debated on Wednesday 25 April 1990

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9.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received about the level of community charge in Barnet.

I continue to receive representations on many aspects of the community charge.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the community charge in the London borough of Barnet, whose schools had the best results of any local authority in England and Wales and which educates 2,000 refugees from Brent each day, compares very favourably with that of other local authorities? Will he confirm that its community charge of £338 compares well with the £498 imposed by Brent, £534 imposed by Camden, and £573 imposed by the London borough of Haringey? Does not that contain a message for the community charge payers of Barnet next week?

I agree completely with my hon. Friend. Community charge payers in Barnet pay a £70 contribution to the safety net, without which the charge would be £268. Last week, I had the opportunity of visiting Barnet with my hon. Friend. The most common fear expressed to me by shoppers in the high street was of boundary changes. They asked me to make absolutely certain that none will be made, so that they will not suffer the consequence of becoming charge payers in Brent, Haringey or Camden.

Barnsley and Calderdale would benefit from the same poll tax levels as in Barnet, as that would help them to sustain some of their services. Over the past two years, the Minister and his predecessors have been happy to present the nation with estimates of gainers and losers showing that, according to the Government, 60 per cent. of the population would gain from poll tax. When the true figures were known, the Minister and his Department refused to produce them, despite pressure from myself, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and many other right hon. and hon. Members. Will the Minister confirm that figures from the House of Commons Library's statistical section reveal that, in reality, 28 million people will be losers under poll tax—79 per cent. of the population—and that the figures that he and his Department use are wholly mythical?

That is absolute nonsense. We have published all the figures. The statistics that have been published on many occasions, at frequent intervals, show clearly that as a consequence of the changes to the system, 60 per cent. of households will benefit. Those that do not benefit—such as in Barnsley—would do so if Conservatives were in charge of their councils. The message clearly coming through is that with a Conservative council, one pays a lower community charge. Conservative councils cost less.