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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September, 2003, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Lib Dems vote to axe council tax
Radical plans to axe council tax have been set out at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.

The party is launching a national petition calling for the abolition of the charge, with delegates backing plans to make the move official policy.

Local government spokesman Edward Davey said council tax was "the least fair major tax" because it took 5.1% of the incomes of the poorest people and just 1.2% from those in the highest pay bracket.

The Lib Dem move follows local government minister Nick Raynsford's admission that council tax rises were at "the limit of acceptability".

The party would replace council tax with a local income tax of up to 3%.

By forcing councils to hike taxes, Labour has laser-beamed their stealth taxes onto pensioners and the poorest
Edward Davey
Lib Dem local government spokesman

The plan was overwhelmingly backed by delegates at the conference on Tuesday.

Mr Davey told the conference: "Council tax is not at the limit of acceptability, it's passed it.

"By forcing councils to hike taxes, Labour has laser-beamed their stealth taxes onto pensioners and the poorest.

"How can it be right that the poorest pensioners pay six times more of their income in council tax than the richest non-pensioners?

"How can it be right that the poorest tenth in society pays over four times more of their income in council tax than the richest tenth?"

Evil tax?

The new local tax, based on earnings, would make 70% of people better off, the party claims.

Councillor Chris Clarke from Wells branded the Council Tax as "evil" and said the prime minister would rather "sting pensioners and the weak" than "toffs in big houses".

Mr Clarke - a deputy chairman of the local government association - said: "This tax has to go. Carry on the campaign right across the country and don't stop until this evil tax has gone."

Lib Dem Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor said the council tax undermined local accountability.

"We must not drop or undermine our campaign against the tax," he said.




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The BBC's James Landale
"The Liberal Democrats also promised to help students"



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