Under the Labour Government, council tax more than doubled. Under this coalition Government, we have frozen council tax, delivering a cut of 4.4% in real terms for hard-working families and pensioners.
In the last two Parliaments I received many letters from pensioners complaining that their council tax was taking up to a third of their income. Under my right hon. Friend’s policy, I have not received so many letters of that nature. Pensioners and others appreciate the falls in council tax. I thank my right hon. Friend for the fact that, under his policy and the careful stewardship of Central Bedfordshire council and Studham parish council, my own council tax fell this year.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I suspect his experience is shared by other Members, but I have to tell him that the situation is worse than he thought because, even in opposition, Labour is planning to clobber pensioners. My Department has been almost swamped by demands from Labour councils to have the right to be able to tax pensioners on council tax benefit, as they attempted to tax the poor.
It is possible that in the next financial year more councils, including Conservative-controlled ones, will decide to increase their council tax. Councils are worried that although help has been made available for a council tax freeze, the Government may decide not only not to continue with it beyond 2013, but to withdraw the help made available for previous years, thus creating a black hole in council finances. Will the Secretary of State give a categorical assurance that the money made available in 2013 for the council tax freeze will be made available to councils on a permanent basis?
It is in the base. It goes into the base next year, and I can give a guarantee to the extent that I can guarantee anything with regard to financial support for councils, but if the hon. Gentleman is expecting me to project levels of council tax support beyond the millennium—perhaps well into the next millennium— I have to tell him that I cannot do so. It is wholly erroneous to suggest this is just for one year, however.
19. On neighbour- hood plans, residents of Coton park, a recently completed urban development in Rugby, are enthusiastically setting about preparing their neighbourhood plan as a front-runner under the new national planning policy framework. However, they have had some concerns about the funding of their work, in particular the costs of holding the referendum. Will the Secretary of State provide some reassurance to my constituents? (133616)