Sir Ron Watson was in fine form last night at the full council meeting moving his motion on Council Tax which can be found on the agenda here.
Now let us be clear Sir Ron was only after staging a debate and getting a discussion going on this issue. He was of course intent on scoring a few point against the government and the Lib Dems. I regard that as entirely appropriate and like Sir Ron regret that the structuring of the council with an executive cabinet has militated against such debates. Of course such debates require us all to be be grown up and not react to the debate in a hyper personal fashion.
From time to time we have staged them in recent years-for example over the Iraq War (when all the Tories voted with Labour ) and later over ID cards-when once again prominent Tories sided with Labour in support of them-altho' we have all noticed how some who thought supporting ID card would be popular and having since discovered otherwise have changed their position. I would like to say they had changed their minds but sadly I suspect it was mere populist instincts that drove them to their first position. I must admit to being a tad gobsmacked by the shameless way the change sides and enjoy their irritation when some has the temerity to point it out. Mind you our Tories just think that it is bad manners!
Anyway back to Sir Ron who sought to frighten us with all sorts of horrors that the Labour government might visit on the middle classes. It is undoubtedly true that the government has forced up Council tax massively during their time in office. The tax is unfair, it is regressive and suffers from the flaw that when the Tories sought to replace the poll tax in a hurry they nationalised local council's spending. In consequence local government is overwhelmingly dependent on central government funding and 'he who pays the piper plays the tune' . If local government is ever to regain it's standing then central government is going to have to withdraw from it's micro management and give us the responsibility of raising most of the money we spend and become answerable ourselves at the ballot box for our actions. Sir Ron, who likes to champion localism, would do well to take on board that localism will only flourish in those circumstances.
The debate was joined by all sides in good humour. Sir Ron effortlessly displaying how superior he is as a thinker and public spokesman than those Tories who have sought to push him out and write letter to the press denigrating him! I suspect when the Tory leadership have time to reflect they will realise that no one in the present Tory leadership comes close to him-and they will not like that.
We had a contribution from a novice councillor from Manor ward who foolishly-and unnecessarily-open up the issue of public transport and bus services. We all groaned inwardly as Mark Dowd lumbered to his feet to explain how the government had failed to put into place the proper framework to run an excellent bus service(and here was me thinking his beloved party had been in power for 8yrs. Clearly he is not as influential and he believes himself to be)
Next up was Dowd (minimus). He moved a clever but wholly out of order amendment borrowing the structure and words of Ron's motion but talking about inheritance tax. It was ruled out of order, with mock reluctance, by the Mayor. Sad that as I would have happily voted for it.
My colleague Cllr Shaw spoke next. He was keen to illustrate that no other tax had such a complex mass of rebates to temper it's essential unfairness. He could have also pointed out how poor the take up of that benefit is especially amongst the elderly.
When the vote came it was carried. The council tax is a bad tax and should abolished.