Earlier this week, the Local Government Association (LGA) released their annual survey of council tax forecasts. The report is based on just over 100 draft budgets, so it's not comprehensive, but it's normally a pretty reliable snapshot of the tax changes to come. The sad thing is, the LGA's reporting of their findings celebrates mediocrity and utterly ignores the best shining examples of good practice in local government.
The headline figure is that council tax nationally will rise by an average of 1.6%. If you look at the country excluding London (where freezes are quite widespread) that figure is 1.9%.
This means that yet again, council tax is rising - despite the recession, the widespread redundancies, the millions of pay freezes and the many pay cuts. Indeed, it is rising to the highest level ever.
What is the LGA's headline, though? "Lowest council tax rise ever".
Gosh - all the people around the country who are struggling to pay the bills are going to be ever so grateful to their beneficent council for being generous enough to increase tax yet again.
The LGA often claims that local government gets an unfair rap from the public - but this smug celebration of tax rises is a good example of why council tax is Britain's most unpopular levy, and councils are widely despised for increasing it. A tax rise at a time when people are suffering economic hardship is something to be ashamed of, not something to boast about.
The really sad thing - on top of the misery that further tax rises will bring for many - is that as well as praising the mediocre let-down of yet more tax hikes, the LGA neglect utterly to praise those councils who have done the right thing and cut taxes.
If, as the LGA claim, it is so difficult to control spending, then they should be heralding these councils which have managed the Herculean task of cutting spending and reducing taxes as veritable superheroes.
But there is no mention at all of Hammersmith & Fulham's amazing four years in a row of 3% tax cuts. Nor do Windsor & Maidenhead get congratulations for introducing the largest council tax cut ever - 4%. Not even Three Rivers' 0.5% cut is acknowledged.
This goes to the heart of two key problems with the LGA. First, they share the misguided assumption in many Town Halls that for taxes "the only way is up". Second, they act as apologists for councils no matter how inadequate their performance. If the LGA is to be of any genuine benefit then they should identify and praise best practice and exceptional performance - not simply rally to the defence of disappointing mediocrity.