Wednesday, 12 June 2013

And HDC still don't get it!

Darren Tysoe, Huntingdonshire DC Cabinet member, was on 'County Matters' (a programme on Sunday morning on HCR104FM) last week. In the interview, he said the following (though I may have paraphrased):
  1. HDC saved £8 million.
  2. The Government has cut the money it gives HDC by 5% and HDC needs to save £2 million from current spending.
  3. HDC has low Council Tax. This is paid out of reserves.
  4. People weren't happy with the Council Tax increases.
  5. Most residents are in the 3 bands below the Band D average.
Let me start with the first point.

I don't doubt the savings. But what are savings? For instance if you plan to rebuild the bus station and then don't is that a saving? Is making the Town Councils pay towards CCTV and public toilets actually savings? This maybe a saving to the District Council budget but not necessarily to the Council Tax payer how has to pick up the bill via the Town Council rather than the District Council.

The second point is not very well thought out. The Government for 2012/13 gave grants of £11 million. In this year the total money will be £12.9 million. In 2014/15 this does fall again to £12.1 million but rises to £14.4 million by 2017/18. So where is the 5% cut? The problem isn't lack of Government funding it is point 3.

The third point is the source of the trouble at HDC. Whilst HDC and the Conservatives have shouted from the roof tops that it is a council with low council tax it has forgotten about the spending part. To my mind a low council tax council is also a low spending council. HDC has never been a low spending council. Indeed back at the beginning of the last decade HDC recognised it needed to double Council Tax. The only reason it didn't put tax up was the Labour Government capped HDC.

This caused problems. But HDC went ahead and spent as though it was getting double the amount of council tax in and made up the deficit by using reserves. With Government changes to funding this deficit has hit home. HDC needs to allow building of homes to get Council Tax plus new homes bonus money in to keep this budget afloat.

Which brings me to point 4. Because HDC and Conservative propaganda has focussed on the low council tax rate and leaves out why the Conservatives have been able to spend high by using diminishing reserves, this has meant Council tax increases have come as a bit of a shock. On one hand we have David Cameron and the Conservatives informing people of the Council Tax freeze whilst Conservative run HDC pushes ahead with large increases. The two don't add up.

Which brings me to point 5. Most residents are in Bands A-C. These aren't happy about Council Tax increases. What the Conservatives seem to forget is much of their support comes from Band D-H. Hurting these bands doesn't help with getting their supporters out.

What can the HDC Conservatives do?

They are in a pickle because whatever they do will be wrong. What they should do is admit they were wrong to increase Council Tax. They should commit to freezing council tax for the next few years and cutting council tax back to 2010 levels. They need to be honest with the electorate. The reason HDC needs to increase council tax is simply because Council Tax was too low for the level of spending. Either HDC has to cut spending and services to the current Council Tax level or increase Council Tax to meet current spending. They need to achieve this by holding a referendum.

The Conservatives need to be straight with its residents. Yes, the government cuts are having an effect but much of the trouble was historic. The only trouble will be are there enough Conservative supporters willing to campaign for a Council Tax hike? I doubt it. Whatever the Conservatives do at HDC they will lose and the longer this goes on the worst it will be!

No comments:

Post a Comment