Councillors battle it out over tax relief after meeting of veterans in Grantham
A call for council tax relief for veterans has been made following a meeting at the weekend.
Conservative councillors met veterans at their regular breakfast meeting in the Tollemache Arms in Grantham.
District Councillors Ben Green, Richard Dixon-Warren and Graham Jeal said they were gauging the potential support for council tax relief for the district's most vulnerable veterans.
Coun Green put forward the idea that South Kesteven District Council, as a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant, should consider the idea which would ‘serve as a token of appreciation for their significant contributions to the nation’.
Coun Green expressed his disappointment that, at a recent finance meeting, the deputy leader of the council, Councillor Ashley Baxter, rejected the idea, referring to it as a 'discount for brigadiers'. Coun Green said: "If Councillor Baxter and any members of the administration had the opportunity to speak with our veterans, they would understand the challenges many face in their transition back into society."
Councillor Richard Dixon-Warren, SKDC Armed Forces Champion, said: "I am disappointed at the reception of this straightforward suggestion among some councillors within the ruling Rainbow Alliance."
Former Mayor of Grantham and SKDC Armed Forces Champion, Dean Ward, said: "I spoke to many of the veterans who live in our district, and not a single one thought it was a bad idea to offer a small amount of support to those who have dedicated themselves to our nation."
South Kesteven Coalition leader, Coun Graham Jeal urged the public to participate in the ongoing council consultation. He said: “One veteran from the Earlsfield area of Grantham made it clear that his Labour and independent councillors in the Rainbow Alliance, whom voted for Councillor Richard Cleaver as Leader, do not represent him. The South Kesteven Coalition wholeheartedly supports the idea of extending support to our vulnerable veterans, and we encourage you to express your support through the council consultation.”
Coun Baxter said Coun Green had referred to ‘all veterans’ at the finance committee meeting on July 18 when proposing that the council tax discount scheme should be extended to them.
He said: “His suggestion, as presented, was for all ‘veterans’ which would include retired brigadiers in receipt of healthy pensions as well as recruits who might only have been employed by the armed forces for days or weeks. Coun Green’s proposal would cost the council hundreds of thousands of pounds leaving a shortfall in the budgets which would leave all other council tax payers with higher bills or fewer services.”
To make your views known on the issue, you can take part in the survey at http://www.southkesteven.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=16231
Coun Baxter added: “My comment at the meeting in response to Coun Green’s proposal was to point out the following: military service is already taken into account by the scheme; war disablement and war widows pensions are disregarded when considering income eligibility; if veterans are suffering from unemployment, ill-health or financial hardship, then they will already be covered by the umbrella of the scheme. I said: ‘We applaud anyone who has served in any branch of the services. However, being a veteran does not equate to financial hardship. There are some veterans suffering financial hardship and some who are very well-off. There would be a significant financial consequence to the council if we were to go ahead and say that anyone who has served in the military should receive a council tax discount.’”