Many councils across the country are consulting with local residents on possible Council Tax increases. Nottinghamshire County Council is just completing its consultation called ‘The Budget Challenge 2014/15’. The response rate was good, with over 6000 people completing a form and sending it to the council, and the council has revealed that 45 per cent of respondents favour an increase of 1.99 per cent, rather than an inflation busting and referendum triggering 5 per cent.
What doesn’t appear to have been offered was a Council Tax cut, or even a freeze. In a similar way to Buckinghamshire residents, Nottinghamshire residents have just engaged in a loaded referendum. It goes like this:
You put out lots of scary numbers about how much money the council has to save. You then say the only way to save the money is by cutting services (which implies there isn’t any waste at all). You then ask which services local people think should be cut. You then say the cuts would not be as bad if Council Tax increases by x per cent, knowing that those responding will not want to opt for a large increase. This then presents a smaller increase as justifiable, and hey presto, you can say that the majority of local people consulted favour an increase of 1.99 per cent.
Of course, what the council could have done was accept the Government’s offer of a grant in return for a freeze. Whether residents would have opted for that is unknown, however for a consultation to be genuine, this option should have been on the table.