It has been reported in the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere today that council tax is set to rise by a staggering 3% in April. The LGA issued a somewhat contradictory statement, announcing the rise and then saying that councils were working 'flat out' to keep council tax down and that they understood that 'everyone was feeling the pinch'.
What's wrong with this picture?
Firstly, this rise is far above inflation. Current RPI index shows inflation lying at 0.1% - putting this rise at around 30 times inflation. At a time when people need every spare penny to make ends meet, how can councils put this kind of additional burden on them? It is morally indefensible.
Further, it is totally unnecessary. Councils have so much fat in their budgets, they could easily implement a council tax freeze, if not cut. They need only look to the TPA's Ten Per Cent Challenge, and our Council Spending Uncovered series to find ready-made, common sense policies that will deliver real savings to taxpayers and enable councils to start cutting that sky-high council tax, right now when people need it most.
Far from working 'flat out' to keep council tax down, many councils are so out of touch that they have not reined in spending at all. A prime example of this is Kent County Council's decision to award over £100,000 in bonuses to senior employees. This, despite the fact that they lost £50 million of taxpayers' money in the Icelandic banking crash. Time after time, we see public sector employees being rewarded for failure, at a time when they should be institutionally and personally eschewing any pay increases or bonuses.
Once again, we see councils' rheotric to be at odds with their actions. They are out of touch with the very people they are supposed to represent. Council tax has doubled over the last ten years, and taxpayers are now starting to wake up and tell their councils: no more.
As the self-titled 'voice of reason' from Gillingham wrote: "It's about time these senior council officials, like the bankers, accepted their moral responsibility amd immedately waived their right to any bonus in the light of their poor performance.
"They are getting paid market rate public sector salaries, and I believe it's totally unacceptable that these people should be receiving bonuses out of public money at all, let alone in the current climate. If they are so worthy let them find alternative, if they can!"