MP signs the shirt on his back

AN MP has joined forces with a group of angry residents disgusted at the latest council tax hikes and sent a signed "shirt off his back" to local authority bosses.

AN MP has joined forces with a group of angry residents disgusted at the latest council tax hikes and sent a signed "shirt off his back" to local authority bosses.

Last week, Tim Yeo, the Conservative MP for South Suffolk, urged residents to send council chiefs their shirts to show their anger and on Saturday he followed suit – signing one of his own shirts at his weekly Sudbury surgery before posting it off.

He is backing The Shirt Off My Back campaign which has been launched by a group of residents outraged by the council tax rises which look set to see band D householders across Suffolk facing a bill of more than £1,000 this year.

A group of villagers officially launched the campaign in Hartest, near Bury St Edmunds, on Thursday and disgruntled taxpayers across the county are now being urged to back the campaign by sending their shirts to Suffolk County Council – which is planning to increase council tax bills by more than 18%.

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Mr Yeo, who is accusing the county council of fleecing the public, said: "I was shocked at the level of increase and this is an excellent initiative – a grass roots reaction to what is a grossly inflated demand on the people of Suffolk.

"It's good that the people from a small community like Hartest are willing to start an initiative like this and I fully support them. It's a reflection that the community has had too much of this and everyone I have spoken to since the launch can't see the justification for such an increase.

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"Particularly as they don't see a corresponding increase in the quality of services. I hope this campaign gathers momentum."

Mr Yeo said he hoped Suffolk County Council would take note: "If they are sensible they will recognise the depth of feeling and respond by reconsidering their budgets.

"In my experience, they are unlikely to do that in the short term but I hope a reaction like this will influence their thinking in the long-term and hopefully we won't have such ridiculous increases in the future."

Leading campaigner David Irvine, who welcomed Mr Yeo's backing, wants every resident in every village, town and district in Suffolk to respond to the campaign to get the increases scrapped.

He said: "I believe the council is relying on the fact that people will just swallow these fantastic increases, but this is our chance to prove them wrong and let democracy have a say."

Suffolk County Council said the proposed tax increase of six times the rate of inflation was partly due to increased pupil numbers, spiralling social care costs and a lack of Government funding.

David Rowe, portfolio holder for strategic and financial planning, said: "We want to put any shirts or blouses we receive to the best of use.

"We will be donating them to a special store of clothing we use in exceptional emergency situations."

Members of the county council's executive committee will be asked tomorrow to recommend the budget proposals to the full council on February 27.

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