Lib Dem tax rebate plan ‘would barely cover cost of postage’ – Uttlesford District Council leader

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden.

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden. - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford’s Liberal Democrat Group is to put forward a counter proposal to the Tories’ plan to cut council tax by three per cent – suggesting residents receive a rebate instead.

Lib Dem leader Alan Dean is to call for a flat rebate of £4.25 per household at a meeting of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) on Thursday evening, where members of the different parties will be locking horns over UDC’s budget for the forthcoming financial year.

Offering a rebate would mean the council was seen to be “acting more fairly”, the Lib Dem group claim.

“The Lib Dem budget is better tuned to the common good of all people,” Cllr Dean said in a statement. “At this time of surplus funding from the New Homes Bonus we want to return an equal amount of council tax to all households whilst retaining the council tax at a level ready for harder times in coming years.”

It was announced earlier this month that the Tories were planning to cut council tax by three per cent – the third consecutive year the authority has decreased its share of the bill.

But the contrasting Lib Dem proposal is fairer, Cllr Dean argues, as the Conservative option would “give back £8.58 to people in the most expensive houses”. Only one-third that amount, £2.86, would go to people in the lowest valued homes, he claimed.

Fellow Lib Dem, Cllr Martin Foley, weighed in on the debate. “The sums involved may be quite small, but the principle of fairness to all and the common good convinced us that the Lib Dem approach of rebating the same amount to all taxpayers is fairer and more progressive,” he said.

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Leader of the council, Howard Rolfe, disagreed with the notion the Lib Dem group’s proposal was fairer.

“I don’t see how that’s the case,” he said. “If you got a cheque for £4.25 you’d probably wonder why anybody had bothered because it would barely cover the cost of the postage.

“It’s better doing it through the proper mechanism.”

Despite his view on the rebate, Cllr Rolfe was more receptive to much of the rest of the Lib Dem proposal, which he said tied in with the Conservative group’s approach.

“We’re pleased the Lib Dems are supportive of our ideas,” he said, referring specifically to improving recycling rates and reducing energy costs on public buildings.

Also included in the Lib Dem budget proposals is a £45,000 cash injection to boost the Highway Rangers service. The rangers are tasked with carrying out odd jobs on the roadside such as footpath and hedge trimming work.

A plan to invest £400,000 for the installation of photovoltaic panels on council buildings to a reduce energy costs and bring income to the council has been suggested by the Lib Dems, too, along with £180,000 split between a three-year period to improve recycling.

People will be employed to visit households and neighbourhoods, the Lib Dems say, to explain the merits of more effective recycling and reduced contamination caused by people who put the wrong items in recycling bins.

“The council must work with residents to boost recycling and cut the financial penalties caused by misuse of the brown, green and black bins,” said Cllr David Morson, a former leader of the Liberal Democrat group.