Et tu, Bromley? It is now apparent that a significant minority of councils will increase the Council Tax this year. They include five of the 32 London boroughs. Labour Lewisham plans a rise of 1.75%, while Labour Harrow is imposing a 2% rise. Lib Dem Kingston, which already has the highest Council Tax in London, is punishing its residents with another 1.99% rise. I'm afraid Conservative Croydon is planning a 1.85% rise. But to me the most disappointing news is that Bromley is planning an increase of just under 2%.
It will still mean that Bromley will have one of the lowest Council Tax levels in outer London. They can point out that their spending power following the grants settlement reduces by 2.2% which is above the average for London. (Incidentally, Labour's claim that the poorest boroughs are being singled out for sharper cuts is false. Richmond-upon-Thames has its spending power cut by 1.6%. Newham actually sees an increase of 0.2%.) Bromley can claim that it was not an extravagant borough – leading the way with sensible savings like cancelling its sub to the LGA. It can also claim that it already had the fuzzy end of the lollipop in its grant level.
However the Council Tax rise in Bromley is still wrong. It is saving a few hundred thousands on shared services with Bexley. It should be doing more. Millions a year or tens of millions. Those are the scale of savings that Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, and Kensington and Chlelsea are achieving. We could and should be going much further. But Bromley and Bexley need to be going ten times further just to catch up with us.
Shared services are just one example. Bromley Council does not have to increase Council Tax to maintain services. I hope they will think again. Croydon, a much higher spending council, has still less excuse.