George Osborne has revealed proposals to freeze council tax in England, paid for by an “underspend” in Whitehall. This is for another year, in 2012-2013, and will help struggling families. While the government cannot force councils to make the freeze, it will be offering those that limit spending increases to 2.5% or less, money that they will need.
Tory Party Conference
The chancellor will speak at the Tory Party conference in Manchester, saying that he is planning on sticking to the deficit reduction targets set by the coalition. This comes as the chancellor is under pressure in order to increase growth in the economy. Both Labour and his own party are criticizing Mr. Osborne, urging him to set out detailed proposals for the growth.
The speech focused on the economic strategy that the government currently is using, arguing that no U-turn is necessary and the tough plans are important due to the Eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis, as Britain will need to avoid slipping any more into a weak economy and potential recession.
The government plans to help unburden businesses by increasing the amount of time workers have to work before claiming unfair dismissal if they are let go. However, the majority of plans will wait to be announced until November, as a part of the second phase in the growth review the government is currently holding.
“I wanted to help families and pensioners with the daily cost of living,” said Mr. Osborne about the council tax freeze. For the year of 2011-2012, councils have frozen council tax bills after a pledge from the coalition agreement had been created.
However, Chris Leslie, the shadow Treasury minister, criticized even this plan, saying, “Out-of touch ministers don’t seem to understand that people are struggling with rising prices and energy bills now, but this policy means no help for another six months. It would mean just £72 for a typical household, which is a fraction of the extra £450 a year the Tory VAT rise alone is costing a couple with children.”
Prime Minister David Cameron promised 200,000 new affordable homes and 400,000 new jobs in his speech that also condemned a U-turn on spending cuts. He also said he planned to increase “right-to-buy” options for tenants in council houses and allowing government land to be released for development. However, the Labour government said that the Prime Minister had r un out of ideas and that the economy was “flat lining”.