Council Tax Freeze – Are They Having a Laugh?

Localism Starts and Ends in Downing Street
Localism Starts and Ends in Downing Street

Council Tax Freeze – Are They Having a Laugh?

What a great endorsement for the Northampton Borough Conservatives to be applauded by that well-known paragon on morale politics Eric Pickles MP for the fantastic deal being offered to the people of Northampton in freezing council tax this year.

Or is it?

Before they all get carried away with what is increasingly becoming a mutual admiration society between the Conservative Leader of the Borough Council and Mr Pickles it may be worth looking at what “the deal” really is.

Let’s start with the Conservatives claims of Localism where local people and presumably locally elected councillors decide on the priorities and taxation needed to deliver the services residents need and want to be provided from their taxes.

In the November last year George Osborne announced that Councils will be given the equivalent of 1% towards what would have been raised by a Council Tax increase if they agreed to freeze it this year as opposed to the 2.5% they gave the council last year.

In real terms the Government have in their words, generously awarded Northampton Borough Council £130,086.52p or the equivalent of 4p a week to every council tax paying household.

This compares to over £300,000 last year, so in effect the Conservatives have cut their support of Council Tax by approximately £170,000 this year.

What it reveals is that the Borough Council Conservatives claim that, “We are making significant cuts to freeze council tax” is not only nonsense but quite simply dishonest…

Of course it is not only a local Conservative ‘con’ but also by Mr Pickles and the government who have now centralised local council taxation through the simple mechanism of saying that if Councils raise council tax by more than 1% this year they would have to hold a referendum to see if the residents agree.

Effectively if Northampton Borough Council decided to increase council tax by 4p/ a week to householders raising £130,000 the Borough Council would have to spend £98,000 on a referendum giving either a net gain of £32,000 or loss of the referendum money.

The position is clear, the Government have cut Northampton’s funding from central government taxation by£2m or the equivalent of £34 for 58 thousand households and think the people will be daft enough to be overjoyed and grateful at being given back £2.08 a year back.

We're all in this together - no really we are?
We’re all in this together – no really we are?

Wow – no wonder their economic policies are failing.

I don’t think I’m the only one who would prefer to receive the £34 a year  and be happy to let the Government have the £2.08 a year.

What the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat allies seem to be conveniently forgetting is that the Government like the Council don’t have any money of their own they only have tax payer’s money.

It is Northampton taxpayer’s money paid into the exchequer through taxation, national insurance and the economically damaging increase in VAT imposed by the coalition Government that is being withheld from local government.

It is not as they would have us believe the Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition’s money

But what about the local Northampton Conservative claims of being the party who are going to freeze council tax bills?

It is a claim that just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Isn’t this the party who have wasted Northampton Taxpayers money, over £100,000   in trying to persuade people into having a Parish Council which would have increased their council tax bill through a parish precept by up to a £1 a week?

Fortunately in the areas of St James, Rectory Farm, Parklands, Westone, Sunnyside and Obelisk saw through their plans and refused to be duped which if they had been successful thousands of households would have faced increase council tax bills.

Does this mean that council tax bills won’t increase across the town?

The simple answer because of the other cuts the Borough Conservatives have made which will be passed on to existing Parish Councils is NO.

The fact is the claims by Mr Pickles which will no doubt be echoed by the Northampton Borough Conservatives that they have frozen Council Tax to as it was put at a recent council meeting “to help hard pressed families” is dishonest.

It is a ‘freeze’ of 4p/week at the same time the Conservatives are  cutting the equivalent of a 50% increase in council tax (£2/week) to the very same ‘hard pressed families’.

What is most worrying is that in their arrogance the Conservatives think that people are mindless drones who haven’t the intelligence to see through their deception.

Perhaps the most dishonest and hypocritical element of the statement from Mr Pickles MP is his assertion that “Councils have a moral duty to freeze council tax”.

Forgive me but I’ll put as much credence in being lectured by Mr Pickles about ‘morals’ as I would if he lectured me on the dangers of obesity.

This from a conservatives government who as part of their ‘moral duty’ are cutting police numbers and pay, are cutting the number of nurses and doctors and who are sacking service personnel as they return from active service.

If the Northampton Conservatives really want to take the moral high ground then perhaps they should take a leaf out of the MP for Northampton South and Northampton Labour book and insist that their Government gives Northampton the funding they deserve.

By reversing the £2m cuts to Northampton the council would then be able to not only provide the services the people deserve and pay for in taxation but will also be able to genuinely  freeze council tax.

We have seen the wheels come off of the Northampton Conservatives PR wagon in recent months whatever their claims about freezing council tax bills they simply won’t be believed.