Monday, March 17, 2008

Council Tax

I received my Council Tax bill through the post this morning for the year ending April 2009. I've know for a while what was coming - again Cambridgeshire has been stuffed by an inadequate government grant, and the total bill has risen 4.9% - it shows just how out of touch Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling are when they say they will hit their 2% inflation target.

The County Council have raised Council tax by the maximum 5%, and the City Council by 4.5% (although the latter has more discretionary spending, and it looks like they have again been eating into reserves, although it is very difficult to tell from the accompanying booklet - I'm only an accountant, local government finance is still a black art of inpenetrable grant funding and fantasy accounting like the housing revenue account where the numbers can bear little relation to the economic reality)

The number at the bottom of the bill is now eye-watering. and incredibly even more money comes in from central government grants, under a formula which local politicians have no say over, so the total spending is huge. The trouble is, the governent continually underfunds Cambridgeshire (e.g. not adequately taking into account population growth when calculating grants), and then wants to try controlling how the money is spent, with a stream of directives and targets.

But Councillors can make a difference to bills locally. I know from experience as a Cambridge City Councillor in 2000-2004, a lot of time is spent in local government writing strategy documents and the like to tick boxes and meet government targets. I also know that Labour and Lib Dem Councillors will spend almost all their time considering service users. We need to focus back some attention on the Council tax payers, many of which are going to be struggling to pay the latest bills sent out. As a Councillor, I will fight for the Council tax payer - Consevative Councils have a track record of better quality services at lower costs, and they do it by continually looking for innovative solutions to problems (Like plans from Conservative controlled Essex County Council to run local post offices), or like Hammesmith and Fulham Council in London when the Conservatives took over after years of Labour mismanagement, just finding the waste that allows Council Tax to be reduced. Cambridge City Council desperately needs a Conservative voice to start standing up for the local Council Tax payers.

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