Conservative Party Conference:

Osborne finds £805m to freeze council tax

 

George Osborne will attempt to appease voters hit by spiralling food and energy prices by promising a second year's freeze on council tax today.

The move – to be announced in his speech to the Conservative Party conference – will save the average family £72 a year, the Chancellor will claim.

But the £805m "giveaway" was condemned by union leaders who said it would do nothing to create jobs or encourage economic growth.

The move comes as a poll of Conservative MPs for The Independent reveals a growing pessimism among backbenchers about the Coalition Government's ability to achieve sustained growth over the next 12 months.

Only half of the party's MPs expected growth to improve next year, the ComRes survey found, while one in six (16 per cent) predicted it would decline and 32 per cent that it would stay at its current feeble level.

Conservative MPs are also gloomy about jobs; 44 per cent of the MPs expect that unemployment will rise over the next 12 months, while only 29 per cent believe it will fall and 28 per cent said it would stay at current levels.

The party gathered yesterday in Manchester amid mounting gloom over the state of the economy and fears that Britain could slide into a double-dip recession. Mr Osborne has already signalled that tax cuts are unlikely before the next general election in 2015 and admitted that his timetable for cutting the deficit may be delayed. Ministers will warn activists about the tough times ahead, but will also try to lift spirits with a series of crowd-pleasing announcements.

In a move designed to appeal to the party faithful, Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will also promise moves to cut tax for married couples by the next general election and warn the unemployed of tough new penalties if they fail to look for work.

The money for the tax freeze for 2012-13 had been found from under-spending across Whitehall departments, a Treasury source claimed.

Under the plans, local authorities that promise to peg – or even cut – council tax levels will receive a 2.5 per cent increase in Whitehall funding. Council tax was also frozen last year.

Mr Osborne will argue in his speech that the sovereign debt crisis in Europe makes it more, not less, important stick to the Government's deficit-reduction plan – explicitly ruling out any "Plan B".

But he will hint at new proposals, likely to come in November, to boost growth in the economy.

These will be led by Lord Young, who was Margaret Thatcher's Employment and Trade and Industry Secretary, who has been called in by Downing Street to lead a cross-departmental drive to make Whitehall more "business friendly" and cut regulation.

Mr Osborne will tell the conference that the Government recognises it needs to do more to promote growth and, as evidence that ministers are listening to business, will point to controversial changes in employment law that would extend workers' probationary period from one year to two.

But last night Brendan Barber, the general secretary of the TUC, said that while the council tax freeze might help families cope with rising bills, the announcement would do nothing to deal with the country's underlying economic problems.

"This is not the best way to boost jobs and growth," he said. "This is politics, not economics."

More announcements on the growth strategy have been held back from Mr Osborne's speech, as Tory strategists are keen that they should not be seen as party political. They want to ensure that the Liberal Democrats are seen to have "bought into them" as any further curtailment of workers' rights is likely to be strongly opposed by Labour.

Mr Duncan Smith will tell the conference today that he is committed to providing extra help for the family.

"This isn't about government interfering in family life; it's about government recognising that stable two-parent families are vital for the creation of a strong society – it's about parents taking responsibility for their children."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £23,000

£13500 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning, Bolton base...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future