Cllr Robert-John Tasker, a Conservative councillor in Kingston, on how the Lib Dem Council has dismissed  George Osborne’s Council Tax freeze offer, despite having the highest Council Tax in London.

Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats on Kingston Council do not seem to understand the basic principle of value for money. They, as I’ve pointed out all too often, are a tax and waste party, hell-bent on spending lavish sums of money without realising the damaging effects this has on the local economy, council finances, and more importantly, the tax-payer.

Here is the reply from Lib Dem council leader Derek Osbourne to my written question surrounding George Osborne’s proposals on a two year council tax freeze:

Question: "Would the Leader of the Administration join my colleague, the Leader of the Conservative Group, in praising the proposals by the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, in proposing to put a two year freeze on council tax bills in order to give families a break?"

Reply: "No, I will not be praising George Osborne on his plan. I do not believe that a proposed Council Tax freeze is a sensible (or even viable) policy to aid households affected by our present economic crisis. Based upon the latest three year forecast (reported to the Executive on 4 November 2008), a council tax increase of 0% for the next three years would require budget reductions totalling £19.771 million. Of this, approximately £3.3 million was approved at Budget Council on 27 February 2008, which would leave a further £16.471 million to be found."

"I do not believe that a proposed Council Tax freeze is a sensible (or
even viable) policy to aid households affected by our present economic
crisis.’’ And here is the classic problem. It’s a question of
priorities. He does not believe it will help households affected by our
present economic crisis. He is joking isn’t he? We have the highest
council tax in London and the third highest in the country. Many of our
young people have left the Borough to move into neighbouring boroughs,
such as Wandsworth, because they cannot afford the huge rates. Our
elderly people struggle on a week to week basis to buy essentials and
to heat their homes. Our young families are finding the cost of living
too much but dare not move because of our superior local schools. 

But let’s look at the waste and prove that savings can be made: The New
Malden high street revamp, has cost £700,000 to date. A project
vociferously pursued by the Lib Dems and one which that been so
mismanaged that that even two years after the project has finished, the
high street is still running to a stand-still. Kingston’s new theatre
continues to be a drain on tax-payers’ money as the £11million +
project is currently running by at least £900,000 a year. A study was
commissioned as far back as 2003 which suggested the provision of an
external ramp and internal platform lift for a third of the sum is
being spent, now around half a million pounds (and likely to over-run).

This, of course, is what Cllr Osbourne fails to point out and does not
want the tax-payer of Kingston to know. Compare a Band D property in
Kingston which attracts council tax of £1,579.57 with Tory controlled
Wandsworth which is less than half of that, at £681.92 for properties
in the same band.

It’s a question of priorities and a whether or not one has the will to
achieve what other Conservative Groups in London have done. But judging
from the attitude of the Kingston Lib Dems we have a long way to go
before we can achieve the tax-cutting success of our colleagues in
other parts of the capital.

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