There is no excuse for council tax rises

September 17, 2010 11:04 AM

Eric Pickles has announced that his Communities and Local Government Department will make up to 30 % in cuts as part of the government’s drive to alleviate Labour’s spending crisis.  I recently attended a meeting of Conservative councillors discussing the measures they would have to take to accommodate these cuts.

One Conservative councillor after the other pleaded to preserve all possible council services without which the residents would suffer unbearable hardship. It was as if we were about to take away the last slice of bread from the deprived multitudes. Several councillors mused over all the missed past opportunities of having the council tax increased.  The gist seemed to be that the council should stay exactly the size it is today, and that council tax rises should pay for it.  It was hoped that the government would scrap caps on council tax increases.

A few of us rolled our eyes.  Is the Conservative Party not supposed to be the party of small government?  Were we witnessing a manifestation of CINOs, Conservatives In Name Only?

I am a councillor in Westminster Council.  It has the second lowest council tax in the land.  Most services run more or less efficiently, with a focus on clean and safe streets.  Westminster is often put forward as a model for others to follow.  Yet recently I walked into City Hall and found two council officers reading their newspapers behind their desks, with nobody lifting an eyebrow.  I routinely come across council waste. I see taxpayers money being distributed to unworthy causes.  And this is a Star Council!  Imagine what it must be like elsewhere?

In the last eight years I occupied weekend places in Kent: first near Dover, then near Maidstone.  The council tax bills I receive are eye watering, a multiple of what I pay in Westminster, where the house is four times as valuable as in Kent.  Both these Kent councils are Conservative held.  What on earth are they doing?  Do they have any clue at all the Conservative means small government, frugality, allowing people to keep their hard-earned money to spend and invest it as they see fit?  With regards to state spending in Kent it seems as if we are still in the seventies, as if the Thatcher revolution never happened.  Perhaps Conservative Central Office should organise a course “Conservatism for Beginners” aimed at Conservative councillors.

Before councils in England even start to think about increasing their council tax, they may want to consider outsourcing, focusing on the essentials, and cutting waste, as we have done for year in Westminster.  When there is even in Westminster still a lot of waste to cut the other less sound Councils have really no excuse whatsoever.

Cllr JP Floru
Fellow of the Adam Smith InstituteEric Pickles has announced that his Communities and Local Government Department will make up to 30 % in cuts as part of the government’s drive to alleviate Labour’s spending crisis.  I recently attended a meeting of Conservative councillors discussing the measures they would have to take to accommodate these cuts.

One Conservative councillor after the other pleaded to preserve all possible council services without which the residents would suffer unbearable hardship. It was as if we were about to take away the last slice of bread from the deprived multitudes. Several councillors mused over all the missed past opportunities of having the council tax increased.  The gist seemed to be that the council should stay exactly the size it is today, and that council tax rises should pay for it.  It was hoped that the government would scrap caps on council tax increases.

A few of us rolled our eyes.  Is the Conservative Party not supposed to be the party of small government?  Were we witnessing a manifestation of CINOs, Conservatives In Name Only?

I am a councillor in Westminster Council.  It has the second lowest council tax in the land.  Most services run more or less efficiently, with a focus on clean and safe streets.  Westminster is often put forward as a model for others to follow.  Yet recently I walked into City Hall and found two council officers reading their newspapers behind their desks, with nobody lifting an eyebrow.  I routinely come across council waste. I see taxpayers money being distributed to unworthy causes.  And this is a Star Council!  Imagine what it must be like elsewhere?

In the last eight years I occupied weekend places in Kent: first near Dover, then near Maidstone.  The council tax bills I receive are eye watering, a multiple of what I pay in Westminster, where the house is four times as valuable as in Kent.  Both these Kent councils are Conservative held.  What on earth are they doing?  Do they have any clue at all the Conservative means small government, frugality, allowing people to keep their hard-earned money to spend and invest it as they see fit?  With regards to state spending in Kent it seems as if we are still in the seventies, as if the Thatcher revolution never happened.  Perhaps Conservative Central Office should organise a course “Conservatism for Beginners” aimed at Conservative councillors.

Before councils in England even start to think about increasing their council tax, they may want to consider outsourcing, focusing on the essentials, and cutting waste, as we have done for year in Westminster.  When there is even in Westminster still a lot of waste to cut the other less sound Councils have really no excuse whatsoever.

Cllr JP Floru
Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute

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