My wife has been complaining that my blog is becoming too political. She says that I should try to write something funny. So thanks are due to Peter Black. In a post onto his widely read blog earlier today he, (a Liberal Democrat) accused us, the Welsh Conservatives of 'opportunism and hypocrisy'. Political jokes don't come much funnier than that! Its a bit like Tony Blair accusing anyone of 'spin'.
The issue which instigated Peter was Council Tax, a form of taxation which, in principle, I've always supported. In fact, I welcomed it when it was brought in to replace the Community Charge (Poll Tax) - in 1993 (I think). And its slightly more progressive than the old Rates system. But, since it is essentially a regressive form of taxation, it can only work at an 'affordable' level. This is an imprecise figure but it was around £350 on average when it came in - and is now over £1000 on average and will go up by another 4%-5% this year. This scale of increase makes it unaffordable for many people. Labour has discredited the system by driving it up an out of reach.
The second cause of rumpus over Council Tax has been the recent revaluation exercise. I was Conservative Party Spokesman on Local Government when revaluation was approved. I did not oppose it - and I don't think Mike German did either. (Mike was Lib Dem Spokesman on Local Government at the time.) I am on record as saying that for a property tax to be effective, there needs to be regular revaluation. Inevitably there would have been winners and losers - but in about equal measure. In fact, over 30% went up and about 8% came down. The problem arose because the total sum raised by Council Tax was increased by almost 10% under the cover of revaluation - after the Assembly Government had given us an absolute assurance that this would not happen. Again Labour totally undermined the Council Tax system.
The Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru want to scrap Council Tax and replace it by putting another 3%-4% on Income Tax instead. Interestingly Sue Essex was in favour of this until she became Finance Minister and properly understood its drawbacks. 'Axe the Tax' is a great 'slogan' - but for political parties that never expect to be in a position to put it into effect. In fact its as blatant an example of 'opportunism' as you will ever see.