Ruffley Slams Liberal Democrats at County Hall over Huge Council Tax Hike

Tuesday, 11 March, 2003

David Ruffley MP has written to Councillor Peter Monk, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Suffolk County Council, complaining about the LibDem's support for the County Council's 18.5% increase in council tax from April this year.

The letter, which has also been signed by other Suffolk Conservative MPs, is attached.

David said: 'The Liberal Democrats have for far too long propped up the high spending Council administration at County Hall. This has led to huge council tax rises for my constituents without any related improvements in local council services. I and my Conservative colleagues have lobbied Government Ministers for a better deal for Suffolk but this has not been supported by the LibDems on the County Council. They simply stand by and allow these swingeing tax hikes to take place without any thought for the most vulnerable people in the county.'


Dear Councillor Monk,

Our constituents are absolutely dismayed at the increase of 18.5% in council taxes which has been put forward by the County Council this year. As close to 80% of our constituents' council tax bills comprise the County Council's element, this is a huge and punishing increase. For the first time the average Band D council taxpayers will face total bills in excess of £1,000 a year. Regrettably, it is totally unrelated to any improvements in local support services.

In the past five years, the Labour-Liberal administration at County Hall has passed council tax rises in Suffolk that are a massive 40% higher than the national average. This has become an increasing burden on many in Suffolk, especially those on fixed incomes. It is yet another pernicious stealth tax. Nobody in Suffolk believes that there has been a proportionate improvement in services provided by the County Council. The latest demand from you, at 18.5%, is seven times the rate of inflation and directly threatens the most vulnerable in our county.

None of this would have happened without the active support and connivance of the Liberal Democrats at County Hall, who are propping up the Council and agreeing to these swingeing and unjustifiable year-on-year increases. You have meekly gone along with this, despite describing yourselves as an Opposition party. The Liberal Democrats in Suffolk, in a cynical pursuit of shared power have made numerous electoral pacts with Labour at a local level. This sustains a relentlessly tax hiking administration at County Hall that is detrimental to our constituents' standard of living.

Of course, we appreciate that there is a limit to the size of the public purse, how it can be spent and what it can buy. But what is unacceptable to us is the fundamental failure of the Labour-Liberal administration to stand up for Suffolk. If you feel that the Revenue Support Grant from Labour central Government is inadequate, you should be arguing and campaigning remorselessly for a better deal, rather than rolling over and allowing our Suffolk constituents to be given more tax punishment. Liberal Democrat silence and meek acquiescence is inexcusable, especially when you have shunned frequent attempts by Suffolk's Conservative MPs to offer to help in lobbying Government Ministers for a better deal for Suffolk, to secure a better deal for our county.

Our postbags tell the story of concern and anxiety of Suffolk tax payers.

It is high time that Suffolk Liberal Democrats showed some principle and some real concern for the plight of Suffolk council tax payers. You have acted like the Labour Party's poodle for far too long in our county. You should withdraw forthwith from this discredited, tax-hiking administration at County Hall.

Yours sincerely,