Monday, January 08, 2007

I hear Hammersmith & Hillingdon are nice this time of year...

Two new Conservative run authorities have recently announced tax cutting measures in their first budgets, being good for the party locally and for ratepayers but I suspect rather difficult for David Cameron.

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham was taken by the Tories in the early hours of 5th May last year and they have now said that Council Tax will be cut (yes, that's cut) by 3% from April. In a similar vein, Hillingdon Borough has said that senior citizens will recieve a 2% council tax discount to help them - Hillingdon was won by the Conservatives in a landslide win where both the Labour and LibDem Leaders lost their own seats.

This will all serve to put pressure on the Tory Leader on the issue of tax cuts for the next election. So, what should DC do? Praise them to the hilt. Show this is Conservative councils at their best. But he must be sure to say that national government is different. The national situation is more like Norwich. Let me explain.

The biggest lie in politics is "if you cut tax you have to cut services." Not true at all and only left-wingers believe this in order to justify hike-upon-hike. Now I know that local authorities often face difficult settlements - Norfolk County is a classic example - but there is so much waste in local government.

I am shocked by what I see on the inside of City Hall. We could easily neutralise council tax increases and still, in my humble opinion, spend more on key services by having a cost-saving zeal in the next few years as we did have when the LibDem £2m overspend was announced.

The public quite rightly expect us to be careful with their money. They want a responsive council doing good work for a value-for-money tax.

If Hillingdon and Hammersmith can clear their decks and cut costs (not services) like that AND deliver a tax cut then those local politicans deserve praise. Should Norwich do the same? Not yet ... when the council cuts its costs then more money should go into the woeful recycling system, into environmental services and street cleaning. After they are sorted then we cut tax. Similarly, when the education system, NHS and police service are reformed and working efficiently then we cut tax. Both in Norwich and Nationally I would expect that to be inside a four year Conservative majority term.

Rumour is that the council tax hike will be big again this year. Why are our senior officers not on holiday in west London this year?


Anonymous said...

I think the big difference is that the new Conservative Leader & Cabinet of Hammersmith have really been setting the agenda, rather than letting council officers dictate what happens as is so often the case.

In my local authority (Conservative run), the councillors have allowed the officers to entirely take over so they almost have to ask permission to do even the smallest thing.

Surely one of the best things that could happen to local government is for there to be a serious repositioning in the relationship between officers and councillors in most councils.

Anonymous said...

While congratulations should obviously go to the council in Hammersmith and Fulham, didn't it already have one of the highest council taxes in the country, possibly making it easier to cut taxes there than in other places.