Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Council shouldn't forget Pickle's

Now HDC, CCC, Police and Fire are looking to increase Council Tax this year and not take the Government Freeze money. What seems to be worrying is these local authorities didn't see this coming. In the Conservative manifesto for the 2010 General election was:
The Conservatives stood for a freezing of Council Tax for 2 years. The Conservatives didn't win and went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats. In their Coalition agreement says:
So a one year Council Tax freeze should have not come as any surprise to any local authority. The Coalition was able to fund the freeze in year 1 for 4 years. The likelihood of the same funding for another Council Tax freeze in year 2 was not there. All pointed to a one off payment as announced by George Osbourne at the Conservative Party conference in September 2011.

With all these promises and announcements why haven't the local authorities planned for taking this money. Local Authorities, in the main, want more power and money because that is their "reason to be". Labour understood that local authorities just take the money and don't change. That is why Labour introduced a ton of regulation that left each local authority looking towards central government for approval rather than their electorate.

Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, has abandoned much of what Labour has put in place. Instead of capping, the Coalition has introduced referenda. Instead of embracing referenda the local authorities are looking at ways to circumvent this clause. And this is fundamentally why HDC, CCC, Police and the Fire Authority are looking to increase Council Tax and not take the rise.

In contrast to these mainly Conservative run Authorities (The Police have 8 appointed independent members and 9 Councillors (Conservative 6, Liberal Democrat 2 and Labour 1)). Liberal Democrat run Cambridge City Council is not raising Council Tax next year.

Cllr Sian Reid, Lib Dem leader of Cambridge City Council, said: “We are very conscious of the fact that these are extremely difficult times for our residents financially and that was a major consideration in making the decision to freeze our share of the council tax.”

So we end up in the ludicrous situation where the Liberal Democrats adhere to the Coalition policy of a two year freeze and the Conservative run Councils ditch this policy. Well done the Liberal Democrats!

What the local authorities not taken the Freeze Money should consider is Eric Pickles is in charge. He will set the level at which a referendum is needed to increase Council Tax. Any future plans must assume that with a lower inflation rate that this level will come down from 3.5%. The inflation rate was 4.8%. If inflation falls to say 2% then councils could be looking at a threshold for a referendum at 0.7% - 1%.

A Peterborough City Councillor has resigned from his Conservative Group over the Council Tax proposed there. Good for him!

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