Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council is a unitary authority. At present it is run by a coalition of Labour and independents. All the seats are up for election – having last been contested in 2011 when Labour gained five seats and thus remained the largest party but did not gain overall control.
Then there is also the General Election. Stockton North is a safe-ish Labour seat – a majority of 6,676 for them last time. However Stockton South is a key marginal which the Conservatives need to retain. James Wharton won the seat with a majority of 332 last time.
What is the record of Labour in power locally?
This year Stockton Council has increased the Council Tax by a democracy dodging 1.9 per cent. They also put up the Council Tax the previous two years. That means they spurned the grant to fund a Council Tax freeze which most other councils accepted. As a result the Band D Council Tax is £1,614.22. That is before the parish precepts are added – around another £20 or £30. That means the Council Tax is well above the national Band D average of £1,484 (including parish precepts).
On top of that bill Stockton Council has caused dismay in Yarm by imposing parking charges.
This is a council that spends money on flights abroad, trade union officials and awards ceremonies. They also pay above average councillors allowances – including £3,350 a year to be “vice chair” of various council committees. The “chair” is paid £6,700. These are committees such as the “Corporate and Social Inclusion Select Committee” and the “Arts, Leisure and Culture Select Committee”. Would the people of Stockton really notice if these committees did not exist? Yet the Labour council leader feels that it is vital to pay the “vice chairs” a special allowance on the basis that:
“If the chair can’t be at the meeting you have the vice-chair to cover.”
They only meet seven times a year. All they do is sit watching power point presentations on wellbeing and listen to evaluation reports. The councillors already get a basic allowance of £9,300 a year.
In Stockton we can already see that Labour believes in pushing tax to fund waste and cronyism. On Thursday residents will deliver their verdict.