Keir Starmer has declared that Labour will be “the party of the family” under his leadership and called on the government to support local authorities to remove the need for 5% council tax increases this year.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Labour leader linked his theme of families to the recent announcement that local authorities will be allowed to raise council tax by an extra 5% including 3% for adult social care.
The government unveiled the policy for English councils in December. Labour highlighted at the time that the increase is “over twice the rate of inflation” and council tax is “regressive” as it raises less money in poorer areas.
While local authorities are not obliged to increase council taxes, they have experienced significant pressure on social care budgets and have been hit hard by the pandemic, which has seen people struggle to pay their bills.
Starmer wrote: “The importance of family hasn’t been talked about enough during this crisis. In the last decade – and during this pandemic in particular – families have too often been let down or forgotten.
“I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving family and now I have the great joy of a family of my own. It is the strength of the people we care about the most that has helped many of us cope during this dark and difficult period.”
Setting out his ‘family’ theme, he added: “Under my leadership, Labour will be the party of the family. That starts with helping families through the current lockdown and protecting family budgets.”
The UK Labour leader described it as “absurd” that local government in England will need to “hike up council tax” when “millions are worried about the future of their jobs and how they will make ends meet”.
He urged the Prime Minister to “make good” on his promise to support councils during the pandemic by helping local authorities and offering security to families “by dropping your tax increase”.
Starmer concluded: “I believe our best days are ahead and we can once again make Britain the best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in. The vaccine is the first step towards this, but our ambitions will be slowed if we do not support families.”
The opposition leader first revealed his emphasis on the family in a speech in September, when he said: “Family values mean the world to me. I was lucky enough to grow up in a loving family and I have the great joy now of a family of my own.
“The mission of the Labour Party I lead is to extend that same opportunity to everyone. And my vision for Britain is simple. I want this to be the best country to grow up in and the best country to grow old in.
“A country in which we put family first. A country that embodies the values I hold dear. Decency, fairness, opportunity, compassion and security. Security for our nation, our families and for all of our communities.”
Making the case that Covid has shown that “family really does come first” and has further exposed the social care crisis, he said: “It’s hard enough to see your family in pain without financial ruin too.”
Starmer’s comments on upcoming council tax increases in The Sunday Telegraph today come ahead of plans to deliver a speech tomorrow morning on “securing the economy for families during lockdown”.