§ 16. Mr. Teddy Taylor
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many letters he has received from the general public on the issue of the community charge in 1991.
§ Mr. Taylor
Does the Minister agree that much of the criticism of the poll tax, or community charge, would be better directed at overspending and wasteful councils? Before he makes up his mind about this great reform, will he come to Southend-on-Sea, where, just over a year ago, the Liberal-Labour council imposed a poll tax of £420, causing great hardship to the poor? Then the Conservatives took over, and the poll tax was reduced on two occasions—standing now at £340. If the Minister were to come to Southend, he would realise that most of the complaints about the terrible hardship that is being caused should be directed at councils that waste money irresponsibly, not at the principle itself.
§ Mr. Portillo
I am tempted by my hon. Friend's invitation to visit Southend. I had the privilege of meeting his local authority not long ago. I was astounded that, having cut the community charge last year, the local 976 authority had been able to do it again, making it two years in a row. That shows that it was no fluke. The local authority is dedicated to reducing the overspending of the previous Labour-Liberal council. I pay tribute to it and to my hon. Friend for keeping up the pressure.