Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary Caroline Spelman says in the Telegraph today: "If Scotland can freeze their Council Tax, England should as well, but Labour Ministers have bluntly refused to help struggling families."
I also welcome the Scottish Council Tax freeze which is a very shrewd move by the Scottish Nationalists. But there are a couple of important caveats. Firstly, as I understand it, George Osborne offers to help Councils in England freeze (or cut) the Council Tax only where they make some real effort themselves to contain costs. Match funding if you like. They had to keep their proposed rise under 2.5% – which was below the inflation rate when he made the announcement last year. Then he would fund the 2.5% to provide a freeze (or a cut if they were proposing a lower than 2.5% increase.)
Alex Salmond gives Scottish Councils a much softer deal.
Another caveat is that Salmond only has only this money to protect Scots from the consequences of their profligate Councils because of English largesse.
By the way the Telegraph talks about varying Council Tax rises as a "postcode lottery" as if they were like the weather. Of course there are arguments about the fairness of central Government grant allocations and Caroline Spelman mentions the shires being worst hit by "fiddled funding." But let nobody assume that what Councils actually do is somehow irrelevant. For instance the explanation for lower Council Tax rises in London on average is because of what particular Councils in London have achieved. There have not been any special Government favours to Bromley, Westminster, Wandsworth, Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham…Or to Boris Johnson. There has been a determination to save money through cutting wasteful spending and achieving greater efficiency.