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Last night at Harlow Council’s Executive Committee I felt like I was in a parallel universe….

I have always respected the Labour Party in Harlow; I have often disagreed with them obviously, but at heart they are a bunch of old socialists and have often stayed very true to their socialist principles, even during the Blair years, and as such you always know where you stand with them.

Imagine my shock last night then, to hear the Leader of Harlow Labour Party Cllr Mark Wilkinson argue that the council should offer a benefit to millionaires!!

We were debating the Leisure Card changes; the leisure card used to have 3 levels, A, B and C. A and B are now defunct as nowhere in Harlow offers a discount for them, so we were tidying up the system by removing them and re branding the category C cards as just “Leisure Card”.

Category C cards were available to anyone on benefits, which under the old Harlow Council definition, which had not kept pace with the rest of the country, included anyone in receipt of child tax credits or working family tax credits. As you might know households earning up to £50k per year can be in receipt of these “benefits”, so we have decided that Leisure Cards should be available to those who are in receipt of Housing or Council Tax benefit, on Income Support, Jobs Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, those who are disabled or with special needs and any children in full time education.

Where Councillor Wilkinson got upset was that previously anyone over the age of 60 was able to have a Category C card and now we have decided that if they are over 60 and fall into one of the above categories then they can have a card. Cllr Wilkinson played to the trade unionists in the gallery and spoke as though all people over the age of sixty are plunged into financial crisis and in need of as many benefits as possible. He wanted the Leisure Card to be available to all those over 60, regardless of the cost to the Council, and regardless of need.

As a compassionate Conservative, I believe that we should look after the most vulnerable in society and wanted to keep the Leisure Card for those in most need, given the councils diminishing resources and need to respond to the age of austerity.

Cllr Wilkinson thinks anyone over 60 deserves a “benefit” be they millionaires or just rich…. Shame on Him!

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