Communities Secretary John Denham has shown himself to be completely out of touch by suggesting that the 1.8% average Council Tax rise in England in the coming financial year is a matter for celebration. Council Taxpayers are rightly angry that their bills are already too high – especially after the punishing recession which Denham's Government much take responsibility for hitting Britain worse than the rest of the world. Talk of the "generous" Government settlement for Councils will also provoke much hollow laughter in Town Halls creaking under the financial burden of meeting ever more bureaucratic demands from Denham's Department.
Furthermore what does Denham imagine is Labour's contribution to Council Tax increases being lower than in previous years? Regular readers will be familiar with the amount of time I spend poring over the DCLG Council Tax tables and I am naturally excited to have a new set to pore over. Click on Table 6 and what doe we find? In London we have Boris Johnson freezing the GLA precept. Does John Denham imagine that Ken Livingstone would have done the same? Would John Denham care to acknowledge that the three councils in London cutting the Council Tax (Hammersmith and Fulham, Merton and Havering) are run by the Conservatives?
In fairness the Labour borough councils in London are managing a freeze as they prepare to face their electorates. But a freeze counts for rather more in Conservative Hounslow, which has been doing it for years, or Wandsworth where the Council Tax Band D bill is £687 than in, say, Labour Haringey, where it is £1,494 and there have been steady inceases. The last time Haringey froze the Council Tax was before the 2002 elections – they imposed a 17.4% rise the following year.
Outside London we have another three Conservative councils delivering Council Tax cuts – Windsor and Maidenhead, Calderdale and Rugby. I didn't notice any minus signs next to Labour Councils.
What about the other end of the scale? The Council with the biggest tax increase is Labour Knowsley with 4.8%. If we discount the Isles of Scilly, which is a bit of a special case, the Lib Dems were the runners up with Rochdale – which is imposing a 3.9% increase on its residents.
In Knowsley the Conservatives currently have no Council seats. Our General Election candidate is a local man called David Dunne. Council elections are taking place this year but lookiing at the results from 2008 this does look rather challenging territory for us. In most wards we didn't put candidates. However in one ward, Roby, did we come a reasonably close second place with our candidate Robin Webster geting 42% of the vote.
Knowsley spends over £1.5 million a year on publicity. They spent £800 on the bar bill for councillors on an "Away Day." Their arrogance is reflected in their secrecy – resisting Freedom of Information requests on their CEO's pay. Meanwhile their raods are in a terrible state and the GCSE results from their schools are the worst in the country.
Perhaps some Conservative representation might restrain the Council with its future spending. At the moment the complacent Labour Council evidently believes it can get away with anything.