With a Band D Council Tax bill of £1,597 (including the GLA precept) the residents of Richmond-upon-Thames are paying a high price for having chosen the Lib Dems to run their Council four years ago. The Council Tax is the second highest in London (only their Lib Dem in Kingston charge more.) In another neighbouring borough, Conservative Wandsworth the total Council Tax bill is less than half that of Richmond.
In terms of the General Election the greatest excitement is whether Zac Goldsmith can gain Richmond Park from the Lib Dems. A bigger swing will be required for Deborah Thomas to take Twickenham from the Lib Dems and claim the scalp of Vince Cable. Although I suppose Cable's extraordinary march to the Left so far during the election campaign will make her task easier.
The Conservatives have offered a vision of the Council as servant rather than master of residents. They proposed a 1% Council Tax cut this year. They also want the Council to be less bossy towards residents and listen more to their priorities.
The Lib Dems have voted through free food for councillors and massive £1.6 million on solar-powered parking meters. They have spent £85,980 on luxury away days for senior managers. They spent months on absurd legal objectionsto a couple wanting to call their home the Love Shack. The spend vast sums on consultation exercises – and then ignore the results. They have also hired Pricewaterhousecoopers – to tell them if they are wasting money.
The Conservatives would cut spending on propaganda and impose a freeze on new posts to help get down the Council Tax bills. They would bring in transparency so residents can see where their money goes. At present the Council has a culture of secrecy – even refusing a Freedom of Information request on the grounds answering it would open itself to ridicule.
The results last time left the Lib Dems with a big majority on the Council. But then the Conservatives had a big majority the time before. Definitely one to watch.