Essex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Nick Alston, has suggested raising Council Tax in order to provide further funding for the local police force. Essex residents have understandably been disappointed in their elected official’s plans and the TPA is in wholehearted agreement.
The proposed rise may seem small, costing an additional £3 per year to Essex taxpayers. However this is hardly the point. Raising taxes such as these only serve to hit those on low incomes hardest (as local MP Robert Halfon argued). Perhaps not initially, but often new tax measures prove to be the thin end of the wedge – income tax and stamp duty were originally intended to only ‘soak the rich’ but have gradually expanded to hit almost all taxpayers. In the same manner, a raise in Council Tax to fund the police could pave the way for further rises in order to fund other things that politicians want.
As part of the ongoing fight to reduce the national budget deficit (further information here), the Essex police force has had to make £47.3 million of spending reductions in the past four years and have a further £40 million reductions to make in the next three years. By contrast the proposed rise will only raise £1.7 million. In light of this, the notion that if this rise is implemented there would be no further Council Tax rises is laughable. Essex residents are staring down a slippery slope with no crash mat at the bottom.
Lastly, Essex has a relatively low rate of Council Tax, and it has been argued that it should be raised to be in line with other areas. The TPA has always stressed that securing greater prosperity for an area is most likely to be achieved by leaving individual’s money in their pockets and not in the hands of bureaucrats. Cutting waste and high salaries for Council officials should be the first port of call when funds are needed not sourced from the usual cash-cow – local residents.
Allowing taxpayers to decide the best use of their money is an alien concept for too many, and nationwide should reduce the tax burden on people as much as possible. Essex should not raise its Council Tax rate to the match others, it is other councils who should seek to emulate Essex’s low-tax example.
Tax rises such as that suggested by Essex’s PCC undermine taxpayers and their self-determination. Leave money in individual’s pockets and let them choose where to spend it. And if there are gaps in the budget, make savings, don't hike taxes.