EU to consider council tax petition

By James HoreA CAMPAIGNING pensioner said he was “over the moon” after his petition protesting at council tax hikes was accepted by the European Parliament.

By James Hore

A CAMPAIGNING pensioner said he was “over the moon” after his petition protesting at council tax hikes was accepted by the European Parliament.

More than 5,400 pensioners put their names to Tony Constable's petition, which called for tough action on councils over the increases.

Mr Constable, from Colchester, claimed the 16.45 % overall increase in council tax bills in the borough in 2003 had been a “gross misadministration” when compared to the 1.7% increase in the pensions of more than 20,000 elderly people living in the area.

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His call for action over the hikes, which had been refused by the Local Government Ombudsman, has now been accepted by politicians in Europe.

Mr Constable, of Margaret Road, said: “This will make a difference - it is fantastic news that this is going to Europe and, hopefully, it will force this Government to change direction. There has to be a fair deal for pensioners.

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“One whole week's worth of pensioners' income is going straight to the council and most pensioners are relying on their savings to help them through.

“I have been working on this since last April and have not ceased and I won't cease - and though I might be in the grave before it happens, there has to be a fair deal for pensioners.”

When the petition was sent to the European Parliament, Mr Constable quoted from the Draft Treaty, Establishing a Constitution for Europe, which he believed the UK had contravened.

It states: “The union recognises and respects the right of the elderly to lead a life of dignity and independence, and to participate in social and cultural life.”

A letter sent to Mr Constable from the EU chairman of the committee on petitions, said the European Commission would be asked for its views on the “aspects of the problem”.

Nino Gemelli added once the information had been received from the European Commission, the issue could then be examined in public at the European Parliament.

Stephen Castle, a cabinet member spokesman for Essex County Council, said: “Nobody likes large increases in council tax. This year a combination of widespread savings across the authority, and a less draconian settlement, has enabled us to deliver a council tax increase of 4.7%

“Obviously, we sympathise with those on low fixed incomes and that is why we worked so hard to deliver a lower increase this year.”

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