CALLS for soldiers serving in Iraq to be exempt from council tax have been made by a North Yorkshire mother.

Frances Ellerker, from Shipton-by-Beningbrough, whose son, Daniel, is currently serving in the Gulf, said it was unfair that soldiers were expected to pay for council services despite having to spend months away from home.

"It doesn't apply to my son so much because he was stationed in Germany before going to Iraq, but it just doesn't seem right that they are abroad fighting for their country, and yet they still have to pay bills as though they were here," she said.

"My son has been told he is serving a minimum of six months in Iraq, maybe even a year, yet soldiers are still being told they need to be paying council tax while they're out there.

"It shouldn't cost the soldiers or their families anything while they are away fighting for their country."

She said other costs caused expense for families who had members of the armed forces in Iraq.

Last week she spent £15 sending parcels to her son, containing items like toothpaste and toiletries.

"Tony Blair made an announcement recently that he would look at allowing families to send packages for free, but that hasn't happened yet," she said.

"It is very expensive, with the cost of the items as well as the cost of sending them.

"It shouldn't be costing me, or any other families who have people out there, anything. The fact that they are fighting for their countries should not cause us extra expense."

Mr Blair was asked about tax exemptions for servicemen by an MP during Question Time last month.

A City of York Council spokesman said the office of the Deputy Prime Minister had written to councils regarding it.

He said: "The response was that the office has no plans to change the primary or secondary legislation concerning council tax exemptions."

Updated: 10:23 Saturday, April 12, 2003