A Lib Dem councillor has written to the Press Complaints Commission over news reports that he'd suggested students should pay council tax.
Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the leader of Portsmouth City Council, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday as saying “Local authorities should have greater discretion over Council Tax exemptions and discounts, such as the student exemption”.
The Telegraph reported that Vernon-Jackson made the statement at a meeting last October between LGA representatives and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
A spokesman for Lib Dems among the Local Government Association gave this statement to HuffPost UK:
"This was an inaccurate record taken from a minute of a meeting last year where Sir Merrick Cockell (Conservative Leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council) and Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dem Leader of Portsmouth Council) met the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
"The story in the Telegraph is incorrect, but they did not bother to contact Gerald Vernon-Jackson to check their facts. Gerald Vernon-Jackson did not at that meeting support the removal of student discounts, nor has ever done so."
Cllr Vernon Jackson said: “There was a discussion about how to meet the cut of 10% in Council Tax Benefits which will mean rises in council tax to some people on very low incomes and may be a disincentive to people to come off benefits and get a job."
Huffington Post UK has seen the minutes of the Local Government Association meeting from October 2011. They detail an exchange between Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of Local Government Association (referred to in the minutes as SMC) and Gerald Vernon-Jackson (referred to as GVJ).
The relevant section - and the only one to mention students - reads:
The localisation of Council Tax Benefit
18. SMC set out that the LGA were in principle supportive of the localisation of Council Tax Benefit (CTB). They felt that the risk was a small number of current claimants would bear the cost of the ten per cent saving set out in the Spending Review.
19. The LGA would like greater local flexibility over Council Tax exemptions and discounts.
20. SMC set out that in his opinion Local Authorities could be the key face-to-face service in the operation of Universal Credit (UC).
21. GVJ was concerned that targeting the required saving on people in receipt of CTB in work could have a downside impact on work incentives.
22. GVJ concurred with SMC, Local Authorities should have greater discretion over Council Tax exemptions and discounts, such as the student exemption.
A Liberal Democrat spokesman told the Huffington Post UK:
“Gerald is not in favour of getting rid of the student exemption. He is in favour of proper localism, where councils have the power to decide what is right for them in their areas.
“Neither the Government nor the Liberal Democrats are in favour of ending the student exemption.”