The elections this year will be particularly in Reading where in the General Election Reading West is a key target and in the local council the Conservatives need to win six seats to gain control.
At present it is a minority Labour administration which has been sharply putting up the Council tax in recent years with the support of Lib Dem councillors – including a 3.99% rise last year. This year the Labour administration proposed a 2.2% rise but the Lib Dems said they would agree with the Conservatives there should be a Council Tax freeze. Two Lib Dem councillors are standing as Parliamentary candidates. However the Lib Dems support proved not to be serious, they refused to back any savings to finance the move and the Conservatives concluded they could not trust them.
There were are some silly games and dubious procedural tactics at the council meeting this week. For instance rushing to an immediate vote just after an adjournment before all councillors had returned to the chamber. But ultimately Labour got their budget through because the Conservatives and lib Dems could not agree an alternative. The Labour council leader says the budget approval was "the positive thing that had been achieved" – apart from for the residents of Reading who now face Band D Council Tax bills of almost £1,500.
Under Labour there has been vast waste – including £1 million on an unwanted one way system and mismanagement of the Council owned bus company. Conservative Group leader Cllr Andrew Cumpsty offers a different direction. An example has already been set with Conservatives proposing a reduction in councillors allowances – which was voted through against the wishes of the Labour councillors.
Cllr Cumpsty tells me:
We are pledged not to have any further increases in Council Tax if we take control of the Council. We have promised a freeze and would like to go further and achieve a cut following the example of Windsor and Maidenhead who are cutting Council tax by 4% this year.
He has agreed to write a piece for us setting out more detail.