Flintshire councillors in bitter debate over VAT increase motion

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COUNCILLORS who wrangled for an hour over the national financial crisis during a heated debate ran out of time to discuss plans for the county's funding.

During a meeting of the full council at County Hall, community leaders discussed a motion by opposition leader Cllr Aaron Shotton asking members to voice their opposition to the VAT increase included in the new government’s first Budget.

He said: “We should listen to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It is clear the VAT increase was avoidable.

“We are giving an opportunity to local Liberal Democrats to join with us in opposing the plan.”

Cllr Shotton had introduced the motion because he said the increase would hit pensioners and other low income groups in the hardest.

But Liberal Democrat leader on the council, Robin Baker, described the motion as “party political tosh” and proposed an amendment which expressed disappointment at the increase but that it was “necessary to save the UK from the indignity of seeing the country’s credit rating plummet”.

He said: “Lower earners are lower spenders. It is not a tax on earnings but on spending. Unless pensioners and those on low incomes rush out and spend money on white goods the impact will be lower on them.

“The impact will be higher on higher earners.”

Conservative councillor Matt Wright said he believed Cllr Shotton’s motion was from a template handed out by Labour’s central office.

He said: “I am amazed at the sheer audacity, hypocrisy and cynicism of this motion.”

After the debate councillors took a vote on Cllr Baker’s amended motion with 32 for, 21 against and four abstentions.

Councillors then voted to defer a planned presentation by Kerry Feather, Flintshire’s head of finance, on the Flintshire Futures Programme.

The programme will oversee cost-saving measures as the authority looks to plug a funding gap that could reach £28 million over three years.

See full story in the Leader

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