Budget 2021: Laura Kuenssberg's analyses Rishi Sunak's plans
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Rishi Sunak, 41, delivered his third Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer before a packed and mostly masked Commons chamber on Wednesday. During his 64-minute speech, the Brexit-backing MP for Richmond (Yorkshire) announced he would cut beer duty, scrap the planned fuel levy increase, slash the tape rate on Universal Credit by eight percent and even give low-paid workers a 59p per hour pay rise.’
However, buried deep in Mr Sunak’s Budget was the possibility households across the country could see their council tax bills skyrocket by hundreds of pounds over the next five years.
This comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said it expects council tax revenues to be 33 percent higher by 2026/27 than they were in 2019/20.
Estimates suggest this could mean the average band D council tax household in England could be forced to cough up an additional £262 to the exchequer by 2026/27.
But research shared with Express.co.uk by the Liberal Democrats shows residents in the Conservatives’ Blue Wall could be hardest hit by the suggested three percent yearly increase.
According to their data, the average weighted council tax bill in Remain-voting Surrey will jump up by £334 over the next five years – over 25 percent more than the English band D average.
Similarly, in nearby Buckinghamshire, which was split down the middle in the 2016 referendum, the average resident could pay an extra £313 with the upgraded council levy.
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Speaking to Express.co.uk about their findings, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader, Daisy Cooper, 39, said Mr Sunak was “out of touch” and described the Chancellor’s “unfair” Budget as “an attack on taxpayers”.
Ms Cooper, who won the Blue Wall seat of St Albans in 2019, also said there is a “growing revolt” in the Home Counties and claimed Blue Wall Conservative MPs will be “feeling pretty nervous” following the Chancellor’s Budget announcement on Wednesday.
“This Budget will do nothing to help Conservative MPs against a growing tide of voters feeling short changed by this government,” she added.
Ms Cooper’s comments come at a time when much political attention has turned to the Tories’ Blue Wall.
Boris Johnson’s party lost the once safe Conservative constituency of Chesham and Amersham to the Liberal Democrats with a swing of more than 25 percent in the seat’s by-election in June.
In a subsequent YouGov MRP poll, the Conservatives were projected to lose an additional 12 seats in their Remain-voting former heartlands.
Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party was polled to gain nine seats – Chingford and Woodford Green, Chipping Barnet, Filton and Bradley Stoke, Hendon, Kensington, Milton Keynes North, Stroud, Truro and Falmouth and Wycombe.
According to the same poll, Sir Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats, who finished second in 91 constituencies when they were led by Jo Swinson in 2019, would also gain the seats of Cheltenham, Winchester and Wimbledon.
Despite recent polling and Ms Cooper’s comments, a Blue Wall Tory MP told Express.co.uk: “Of course electoral politics matters to all of us, anyone that tells you it doesn’t is lying to you, but actually the Conservative Party has always been the party that seeks to save people money and tax people less.”
The unnamed Conservative MP added, whilst the pandemic has unfortunately forced the Government to try and balance the books, he has “taken Rishi at his word” and believes the Chancellor will introduce further tax cuts at a later date.
“Everybody has to recognise £400billion in debt off the back of the pandemic is not a great place to be and therefore getting back to debt reduction and getting back to a balanced budget is absolutely essential,” he said.
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“The Conservative Party is the party of economic competence as well as low taxation and for me the two go hand-in-hand.”
The Blue Wall MP concluded by saying it was important to implement measures provided they “make sense”.
“As long as they are seen through the prism of this absolute global catastrophe that has cost an absolute tonne of money then I think people will understand that.
“But if we carry on at some of the rates of tax – the highest since the Second World War – once we’ve solved the problem and got into levels of growth the OBR has set out then we might be into problematic territory.”
But the Tufton Street pressure group, the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA), has suggested a potential increase in council tax will not be warmly received by Brits.
Harry Fone, the TPA’s grassroots campaign manager, said: “It’s more than fair to say that residents across the South East, and indeed the rest of the country, are utterly fed up with council tax increases.
“Bills are running into the thousands at a time when there is tremendous and unrelenting pressure on household budgets.”
Mr Fone, who took charge of the UK Libertarian Party’s general election campaign in 2017, added: “Councillors need to remember that tax cuts are popular with voters and should be doing everything possible to keep rates as low as possible.”
Despite criticisms over council tax, a spokesperson from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told Express.co.uk: “Councils are responsible for setting their council tax levels and we set referendum principles every year to ensure that local people have the final say over any excessive increases.”
The spokesperson added: “The Spending Review delivers a 3 percent increase in spending power for local government and we are supporting councils to maintain key services and build back better after the pandemic.”
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