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MORE TAX PLEASE, WE'RE BRUMMIES

11-02-2010

Now here’s a radical thought. Instead of threatening to shed a further 2,000 jobs in a desperate bid to keep the Council tax rise to 1.9% why doesn’t Birmingham Council bump it up to 2.5% instead?

The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition could still boast that the increase is below the rate of inflation – the government’s target figure, the Consumer Price Index was 2.9% last month – and would replace many of the millions expected to be lost by reductions in government funding.

On the Council’s own figures a 3% increase in the following two years would raise an additional £10million – not enough, perhaps, to stave off all the planned cuts, but enough to make substantial inroads into them, and possibly keep a fair number of those threatened jobs.

But how do you sell the idea of substantial rises given that we’re always told that taxpayers want to pay less?

Well, no one pretends its easy, but that’s what leadership is all about.

If people see what a 1.9% increase means – savage cuts in the workforce, a decline in services – they might well be persuaded to cough up more; especially as most homeowners are paying substantially less in interest charges these days.

Anyone who runs a business could also be persuaded that it’s in their interest to pay a little extra to beef up the number of people in employment.

After all, every worker is a potential consumer whereas those on the dole queue will understandably rein in their spending.

This is hardly a radical prescription for Birmingham’s financial woes; and we await with interest Labour’s alternative budget, which will no doubt be far more detailed than our own back of an envelope economics.

But 1.9% should not become a shibboleth or a test of the Council’s good management.

It is simply a number – and an unlucky one at that for those at the sharp end of job losses and service cuts.

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