There has been some suggestions that the Conservatives will do less well in London in the General Election relative to the rest of the UK. Perhaps the Conservatives will gain seats in Wales and Scotland but lose seats in London.
It’s rather tricky to predict. The local elections in London last year were generally disappointing for the Conservatives – although there were glorious exceptions in Barnet and Kingston. The results outside London were rather better.
On the other hand Labour’s “Mansion Tax” proposal is very anti London. There are plenty of people I have canvassed, who live in normal terraced houses, who fear they could be hit by it – even if their house might be worth less than £2 million. They are entitled to be concerned as Labour’s estimates for the revenue they would obtain from it are a shambles – the interview with a Shadow Health Minister yesterday made all too clear.
Anyway so far as the Council Tax is concerned the contrast is particularly strong in London between Conservatives, with low Council Tax, and Labour and Lib Dem councils setting higher bills.
Ken Livingstone’s levy on London council tax bills more than doubled under his administration, soaring from £123 on Band D in 2000-01 to £310 in 2008-09. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has cut the GLA precept from £310 in 2008-09 to £295 in 2015-16, a fall of five per cent in cash terms, and a cut of almost a quarter in real terms since 2008.
The lowest Band D council tax in Great Britain in 2015-16 is Conservative Westminster (including the Conservative-set Mayoral levy), followed by Conservative Wandsworth. 17 Conservative councils in England are cutting council tax in absolute cash terms in 2015-16, compared to only one Labour council. (The one Labour council in question being my own authority of Hammersmith and Fulham where Labour’s modest one per cent cut was achieved by proceeding with efficiency savings already set up by the Conservatives.)
Boris Johnson and Eric Pickles today launched two election posters to highlight the Conservative record in cutting council tax bills and the good work of Conservative councils, ahead of the local elections in England on 7th May.
The first poster highlights how Conservatives in Government have saved taxpayers £1,059 by stopping Labour’s council tax rises. The second outlines how Conservative councils deliver more for less, with better services and lower council tax. Both reflect the Conservative agenda of providing security for hardworking families. Under Labour, council tax became a big worry for those trying to balance family budgets.
Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
“Under Labour, council tax doubled and they still want to hike taxes on family homes. Only Conservatives are working to keep council tax down, giving hardworking taxpayers greater financial security.”
“Conservatives in local government are delivering lower council taxes and better public services. On 7 May, don’t let Labour do to your council what they did to our country.”
Since 2010, Conservatives in Government have given extra funding to town halls to help freeze council tax. The Localism Act has also given local residents new rights to veto big local tax hikes, so local people have the final say on the amount they pay. As a result, council tax bills have fallen by 11 per cent in real terms across England. In Wales, which has a Labour administration, there has been no council tax freeze or referendum protection, and council tax bills have soared by six times the rate in England. Ed Balls has refused to rule out increasing council taxes bills in England and Labour want a new levy on family homes.
Locally, Conservative councils charge lower council taxes than Labour or Liberal Democrat councils, by cutting waste, improving procurement, making better use of assets and joint working.
In London, Boris Johnson had led by example, cutting the Mayoral levy on bills by almost a quarter in real terms; under Red Ken, council tax bills more than doubled.
Not that London is where the contrast ends. Averaged across tiers, Conservative-controlled councils in 2015-16 in England charge £81 a year less than Labour-controlled councils on a Band D home, and £102 a year less than Liberal Democrat-controlled councils. In 2015-16, a total of 120 Conservative-controlled councils froze council tax (representing three-quarters of all Conservative councils), compared with 51 Labour councils (representing only half of all Labour councils).
Labour talk about helping the poor and easing the “cost of living crisis”. But their record on Council Tax shows a lack of credibility in their claims.