A POLITICAL row has erupted between Hart councillors over claims that residents face a whopping 28% rise in their council tax bills next year.

Conservative councillors have warned that new proposals to change local government finances mean Hart could suffer enormous local tax increases.

Hart's Tory council leader Robert Benford has warned the authority will be the worst hit in the country.

"We could well end up collecting this tax from local people and then sending a cheque straight to Gordon Brown for £600,000," he warned.

Cllr Benford said senior Conservatives are enlisting the help of Tory MPs James Arbuthnot and Gerald Howarth to fight the proposals.

But Cllr David Simpson, Liberal Democrat group leader on Hart, has slammed the Conservatives for their lack of action in the past.

"Fleet News had a front page article dated July 23, 1999, headlined ‘The Nil Grant'," said Cllr Simpson.

"The story said that Liberal Democrats on Hart were planning a mass petition to parliament complaining about the persistently low government grant given to Hart.

"We invited the Conservatives to join us on a peaceful march to parliament but they said no.

"The News also had a front page story on July 30, 1999, with Conservative councillor Roger Jones warning the cash-strapped council may have to sell its headquarters because of its lack of government grant.

"He said the Conservatives would enlist the help of their Tory MPs.

"It's incredible isn't it — the Conservatives have taken three years to come up with what we suggested.

"I'm delighted they've only taken three years because normally they take a lot longer!

"When we first present an idea to the Conservatives they ridicule it, then they say it can't be done, then they present it as their own idea and say it was self evident.

"It happens all the time.

"Last time the Conservatives said they would have to sell the council offices, this time they are going to put up the council tax.

"The problem is the council is now being run by Conservative career politicians.

"They are more interested in their own political careers than the people of Hart.

"They simply do not understand there is a difference."