Nick Ingram: Our Plymouth politicians have lost all courage
THOSE tight pockets of yours, do they contain any lose change?
Go on push your hands down deeper? I hope there's not a hole? I hope your money has not slid down your trouser leg and has bounced unseen across the pavement then straight down the drain?
Is it worth climbing all the way down the drain to reach that money? Or is the cheaper option going to get the needle and thread out and stitch that pocket back up? You're going to need to.
The council wants its 2% on the Council Tax, which it voted for last month, and it's going to get. No one is there one to stop them.
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Witness the recent vote which led to this rise in the council's component of the tax: 27 votes for the rise, 25 abstentions. A vote such as this can only beg the question: is there any heart left in our democracy?
Yet at the root of all of this sits our council who seem to be blissfully unaware of how isolating to the electorate their actions actually are.
After all, in the long term, local authorities in England have been given access to extra money from central government for the third year in a row. However, the council, by voting through a 2% increase, has refused to take this. I'm willing to accept the fact that 2% is a minimal amount and that it has been frozen for the past few years, yet this money is being taken from the vulnerable and those on low incomes.
Correct me if I'm wrong; but I'm sure that Tudor Evans and Ed Balls have both said that these are target groups which the Labour Party would like to protect? They are a priority. Only in this sense, with a tax increase of this type Labour seems to be pushing these groups further down in to the gutter. In the end it's just the case that the Labour Party are no longer the party of the worker or the poor.
To compound all of this we can only wonder if the council will stop what can only be described as the harsh collection practices which come with non-payment of tax.
The first letter, then the second warning letter, along with the threats to suspend monthly payment. In the end the summons arrives, which then ramps up the money owed.
By which time for some people all is lost and they are forever paying off arrears. While at the same time being put further in to debt by the council and the inflexible and nasty, unfeeling way the Council Tax is administered
And yet, the more worrying aspect of this vote is not the fact that Plymouth people may well get caught by the pulleys and cogs of the Council Tax administration, but the fact of the 25 abstentions.
In the long run this abstention vote was not a vote of refusal. It was not a vote of minor disagreement with the proposal. It was, in fact, a blatant yes vote for the rise. All of them Conservative. Even the Tory party at grass roots levels seems to have lost its moral authority, while at the same time coming in third place at the Eastleigh by-election.
So this can only mean one thing for the city of Plymouth. We now have no opposition within the very heart of our elected council. The very people we elect at local level will no longer vote against a policy for the good of the people. But will now only abstain.
Does this mean that now after all these years that our local political class have lost their courage, their convictions? If they continue to abstain then the only answer can be: yes.
Through all of this it would seem from a vote such as this that those who are elected to represent us no longer do.
Then we only have to ask: if they don't represent the City then who or what do they really represent? A question in the end which the council needs to ask itself. For it is only the council which can truly answer it.