Saturday, December 10, 2011

HDC hates the notion of a referendum

In an act of mutual self interest HDC group leaders have put forward a motion to the next Council Meeting on 14th December 2011. This calls for low tax rate councils to be allowed higher increases and high taxing councils to be restricted to lower increases. For information the Government has set the ceiling for Council Tax increases at 3.5%. If greater then a referendum is needed.

But this motion is wrong. The Coalition Government has ended capping and allowing each Council to decide the rate of Council Tax itself with a referenda for the electorates. If HDC feels it has a good case to increase their portion of the Council Tax then HDC should put this to the public by way of a referendum.

Instead HDC group leaders, by putting this motion forward, are trying to wriggle out of a referendum by allowing higher increases for low taxing authorities. This is wrong. All authorities should be looking to communicate with there residents over what the Council wants to spend and the tax rate to achieve that spending. If the residents don't want to be taxed so highly then service cuts will happen.

In Cllr Abelwhite's letter to the DCLG he states:

There is an argument that referendums may penalise low taxing and low spending authorities for
previous good financial performance. With referendums and re-billing having significant costs, the
benefits of holding referendums are more attractive for authorities with higher Council Tax as the
percentage increase would generate greater receipts for them and make it easier for them to fund
the additional costs.

But HDC isn't a low taxing/low spending authority. It has for a long time been a low tax/high spend council which spent reserves to prop up the failing budget. It is not for HDC to compare with other District Councils tax levels. It is for HDC to decide its spending levels and tax accordingly.

In Cllr Downes email he states the following:
A 3% increase in Council Tax would net £292,800 in extra tax. The current estimate is £100,000 for carrying out a referendum. But that is a one-off and could be used from reserves to pay for this. But that is the question. Do the HDC political parties actually want to give the residents the right to vote over excessive increases or carry on the same? The answer seems to be carry on the same.

A referendum would give a big headache to the political parties as they would have to campaign for an increase. The likelihood of getting enough people out to campaign for an increase is minimal. Likely there would be a revolt in there own ranks to any increase.

I hope Eric Pickles stays the course and dismisses this way round the rules. What is the point of giving this power to the people when those in charge just want to get around the rules.

Excessive Council Tax rises must mean a referendum. In my view the 3.5% level is itself excessive and should be 2.5% or less. If HDC wants to increase the tax it should go for a big rise and the political parties should campaign for an increase. If they don't want to campaign for an increase then they should cut services and cost accordingly.

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