Harry Fone is the Grassroots Campaign Manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

There’s been a modicum of good news for taxpayers as the government announced that Council Tax rises in England will be limited to three per cent for 2022-23. This is most welcome after hikes of up to six per cent had been touted in the press. The TaxPayers’ Alliance wanted the limit set at two per cent, but given this government’s penchant for higher taxes, we shouldn’t be too dismayed.

A three per cent rise in Council Tax next year could see the average Band D bill rise by as much as £58 to £1,956. Compared to average rises of £68 in 2020-21 and £81 in 2021-22, this will give struggling households a little bit of breathing room. Currently, around one-third of local authorities in England charge over £2,000 for a Band D bill, which would increase to approximately one-half of local authorities, if every council opted to impose the maximum rise.

But just because councils can raise Council Tax by three per cent, it doesn’t mean they should. The latest GDP figures were less than encouraging. The country is not out of the covid woods yet and it could be many years before the economy fully recovers. With the tax burden set to reach a 73-year high, more rises in Council Tax must be avoided.

That’s why the TaxPayers’ Alliance is once again urging councils to be hyper-vigilant with how they spend the public’s cash. They must keep tax increases to an absolute minimum. Voters will thank them for it.

It’s no wonder Slough council is bankrupt

One council that is very likely to increase Council Tax by the maximum amount is Slough. At the time of writing chief executive, Josie Wragg, is “away from work” and questionable spending decisions have been made once again.

Wragg has not attended meetings since September and the council leader is refusing to say why. Sources suggest there have been at least two sittings of the Investigation and Disciplinary Committee regarding her tenure. Rumours are now rife that she is heading for the exit door and if this happens one wonders if she will get a big payout like previous bosses.

Slough has employed four chief executives in almost as many years. Back in 2016-17, then chief executive, Ruth Bagley, received £77,782 for loss-of-office compensation despite being suspended for six months. When salary and pension were factored in, her total remuneration was £441,198, the highest of any local authority chief executive that year. Her replacement, Roger Parkin, also enjoyed a golden goodbye in 2017-18. He received £142,215 for loss-of-office and a £339,903 boost to his pension. Add in his salary and once again Slough topped the charts for the highest-paid chief exec in the country at £595,000. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

Slough has a plan to turn things around with its “Our Futures Programme” which aims to make the Council a “world class organisation.” A recent workforce update from the programme reveals that 59 staff are set to be made redundant, costing £2.6 million. But perhaps even worse, the cost to the taxpayer of consultants to help facilitate the transformation to “world class” was nearly £2.1 million! Is it any wonder there’s no money left?

And finally

I was intrigued to read a story from Bassetlaw where the council has been awarded £320,000 of public funding to improve the energy efficiency of a golf club it owns and operates. Kilton Forest Golf Club in Nottinghamshire received the grant as part of the government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

One could ask why the council owns a golf club in the first place? There’s also the question of whether the council is getting an unfair advantage over private competitors. Leaving that aside, could the money be better spent on more pressing priorities? Upgrading boilers, radiators, and the like to reduce carbon emissions will be welcomed by many. But I put it to you dear reader, should green initiatives be getting precedence over funds for essential frontline services?