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Byline: CHRIS McLAUGHLIN Political Editor

JOHN Prescott will this week order local authorities to put a brake on soaring council tax bills for seniors.

The Deputy PM has demanded an emergency meeting of council bosses to call a halt to proposed rises of up to 33 per cent in some areas.

Council chiefs want to put up local taxes by an average of seven per cent - three times the rate of inflation. But some authorities, such as Tory-run West Oxfordshire, want to impose a 33 per cent hike. Seniors, with fixed-income pensions and money tied up in their homes, have been hit hardest. Seniors like Eric, 83, and 71-year-old Estelle Eddy, from Witney, Oxon, who live on pounds 219 a week, of which pounds 25 goes on council tax - and face financial ruin.

Eric, a former civil servant who served in the RAF and Army, said: "It was bad enough last year when we had to find an extra pounds 200 in council tax. I do not know how we will manage.

"We have spent our lives looking forward to retirement, but the reality is very difficult." The emergency meeting comes as a growing "grey revolt" threatens to see seniors all over the country imprisoned for refusing to pay their council tax bills. Mr Prescott has told officials to work out how to keep the increase for the elderly in "low single figures".

Earlier this week, 83-year-old council tax rebel Lizzie Winkfield said she would rather go to jail than pay an 18 per cent rise imposed by Devon County Council.

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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 22, 2004
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