“Council taxes should go down, not up”. that was the clear message from the UKIP manifesto for the county council elections in 2013. Among those who found this proposition attractive were many voters in Northamptonshire. UKIP secured the election of three county councillors that year. The Conservatives retained control but we all awaited budget proposals from the UKIP group for extra savings to allow council tax to fall.
The reality has been rather different as this startling report in the Northampton Chronicle makes clear:
“Raising council tax beyond the current two per cent threshold will need to be considered, Northamptonshire’s UKIP group says, if the authority is to avoid financial catastrophe.
Councillor Michael Brown (UKIP, Kingsthorpe North) labelled the county council’s plan to cope with a £150 million budget black hole over the next five years, by outsourcing some services to mutual companies and trimming back others, a ‘fantasy’ last week.
This week he said, as Northamptonshire County Council currently charges the lowest council tax rate in the country, the authority should look at bringing its charge in line with the rest of the UK.
By law the council can only raise the cost of tax by more than two per cent in a given year if the move is approved through a public vote, but he said it was time the county considered a referendum.”
The Conservative council leader, Cllr Jim Harker, has firmly rejected UKIP’s hyperbole and the frantic demand for such a big Council Tax rise. He is proposing a Council Tax increase of 1.95 per cent. This could and should be challenged. I hope the Conservative Group will refuse to agree to any Council Tax increase. The planned budget is £410 million. The proposed Council Tax increase would raise £2.4 million (as the Government grant for freezing it would be forfeited). So that’s half a per cent. If the councillors can’t find any ideas for that then perhaps scrapping their allowances would be a suitable starting point.
There is a period of consultation which could be used to find alternatives. Conservative councillors should be encouraged to vote against any proposal for a Council Tax increases that is put forward at the Budget Council meeting on February 19th. They are individually accountable for their actions in that respect.
But what is quite obvious to the Council Taxpayers of Northamptonshire is that UKIP – along with the Lib Dems, the Labour Party and the Green Party – favour even higher Council Tax.
It seems that 2015 will see a further lurch to the Left from UKIP.