Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency cut in VAT to help combat the Cost of Living Crisis.
Nationally, the Conservatives have failed to appreciate how serious this situation has become, perhaps because they are focusing on PartyGate!
Locally, for the third year in a row Conservative-run Dorset Council has increased its share of the Council Tax by the maximum allowed by the government. For most local households that means finding another £50 from already stretched family budgets. For many others it means they are paying over £2,000 a year for the first time.
In addition, Conservative Councillors have chosen this time to increase car parking charges. There are new charges on Sunday's while some car parking charges are rising by up to 500%! If you want to avoid this increase you could buy a "flexi-stay" permit - but that costs £260. The only other car parking permit costs a more reasonable £78 but only gives you two hours of parking per day.
These increases are bad news for residents and potentially disastrous for local shops and businesses. When every penny counts those who are struggling will use the free parking that's available at "out of town centre" stores. This helps the large chain stores but only speeds up the decline of our historic town centres.
On top of the problems caused by the war in Ukraine, the COVID pandemic and Brexit the Conservative Councillors running Dorset Council are making matters even worse.
The increases in Council Tax and car parking charges are potentially "the straw that broke the camels back" as they come on top of of an average rise in energy prices of £700, higher National Insurance contributions and higher prices for petrol and diesel.
Many poorer Dorset residents are facing a perfect storm - paying more tax just at the time that energy prices are rocketing and the cost of food has started to rise. They are faced with a stark immediate choice between eating or heating.
That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency cut in VAT to help right now and major increase in investment to insulate older homes and so reduce their energy bills.
Locally, Dorset Council needs to cut down waste and do more to bring its Council tax and car parking charges under control.
Only the Liberal Democrats can stop The Conservatives in Dorset.
Cllr. Andy Canning
Chair, West Dorset Liberal Democrats