Opposition parties Wednesday accused the ruling Conservative Party of distorting economic figures in its proposed 1991-92 budget and throwing local governments into chaos by changing the poll tax system and not abolishing it.
The controversial poll tax or community charge would be reduced by about $250 and the value-added tax would rise by 2.5 percentage points to 17.5 percent to make up for the shortfall, the treasury secretary said Tuesday in his budget message to Parliament.Opposition local councils said the shift to the value-added tax was simply a 2.5 percent poll tax surcharge on every household item.
"If you think of the burden it places on the poor as distinct from the burden it places on other people, the effect is bound to be regressive," said Roy Hattersley, deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party.
In addition, the opposition parties were angered by government plans to push its poll tax legislation through Parliament by next Tuesday.
The government said it was essential to help existing poll tax payers as quickly as possible, preferably before April 1 when Parliament adjourns for the Easter break. Political observers said it is more likely the government wanted lower poll tax legislation in place before May 2 local elections.
The about-face on the poll tax fueled speculation that the Conservative party would call early elections, perhaps in June.