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Council tax or free access?

Pleased with your latest council tax bill? This tax on property was introduced in 1994 by John Major as a replacement for Thatcher’s poll tax which was removed (along with Maggie) after it caused widespread public resentment and riots. Council tax has risen by up to 60  percent since 1997. It leapt 12 percent on average last year, and after the latest increases it’s also now causing considerable upset and anger.

This government like previous ones wants to stay in power, so while it likes to be seen attempting to improve services delivered by local authorities, like education and policing, it doesn’t want to be seen raising taxes to pay for them. Whitehall and local governments both understand and play the resulting game: get what you can from each, but blame one another – and blame other parties – if and when the public complain. Councils blame central government for not providing enough money, and the government accuses councils of inefficiency, mismanagement and proclaim that they will cap unacceptable increases.

While the government is worried about a popular revolt against council tax – something Gordon Brown tried to diminish in his March 17 budget with a £100 reduction-cum-sop for pensioners over 70 – it seems likely Labour will keep this property tax but reduce future increases by allowing councils to raise additional money by charging for more local services.

The council tax is a property tax but it is only a pin-prick for those who own the most property. In fact, the more property you own the less painful it is. While the Duke of Westminster, worth £4.6 billion and owner of some 190,000 acres in Britain is able to live a luxurious life in the grandest of mansions, his council tax bill will be no more than a few thousand pounds. Rich aristocratic and agro-industrialists who represent just one percent of the population but who own 70 percent of the land in Britain, are actually paid property subsidies and grants of tens of thousands each year.

Those on high incomes can also shrug it off. Tony Blair and Cherie’s council tax can be paid off with just half-a-day’s worth of their earnings, Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy’s with a mere couple of days worth of theirs. This reflects the inequalities of ownership and income that are at the basis of present-day society.

Despite appearances, in the end it does not matter to most people what form or level taxes take. To enable us to remain fit to work, our wage, salary or benefit has to cover all the normal costs of living, including any taxes. Abolishing or reducing taxes wouldn’t leave us any better off since it only allows them to pay us less. National and local finance is not really our problem. Whatever the system’s politicians decide, our after-tax income is never going to be much more than enough to keep ourselves fit to work.

Free access

We in the Socialist Party say people should have full access to services like public toilets, education, properly maintained roads, refuse collection,  libraries etc, but we ask you to reject taxation or direct charges as ways of providing them. Instead, we ask you to support free access to these vital services as well as to all other needs, like food, housing, public transport, domestic appliances, furniture, gas, electricity, clothing etc.

A society of free access to whatever people need is readily achievable by replacing today’s capitalism with a new system where we all collectively and directly own and democratically control the means of production and distribution (i.e., farmland, factories, raw materials, power stations, water supply, roads network, railways etc).

If we all directly own and control these assets – rather than them being owned by private individuals and, or, the state – then we will also collectively own all that they provide, resulting in free access to all goods and services. People don’t have to buy what’s jointly theirs already.

Nothing will have a monetary cost with real socialism. In fact, money, having no function at all, will be redundant. People will still work, but the purpose will then be for meeting society’s needs – not making profits for, and rewarding, a tiny minority class who have taken possession of the vital resources and machinery that make life possible.

Do you want to stick with council tax, local income tax, national income tax, value added tax, stealth taxes, National Insurance – a tax by another name – or get rid of the lot of them, along with the time-wasting, bureaucracy, confusion, stress and worry they cause, by choosing to have classless moneyless leaderless free access from democratic real socialism instead?