Posts Tagged council tax

Council tax freeze for Islington

It’s official – no council tax rise for Islington this year.

Last night’s Council meeting did go for a freeze, as I’d hoped and predicted.

Good news for Islington residents.

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One freeze we’d welcome

It’s council budget time again in Islington.

Islington’s Lib Dems first took control of Islington Council 10 years ago following the Hillrise by-election, where the level of council tax was a crucial issue. Under Labour, Islington had the highest council tax in the country and some of the worst services.

The LibDems pledged to cut the council tax and then to keep it below the London average, while improving services: a promise they’ve kept ever since.

Last year, controversially, Labour councillors took advantage of the hospitalisation of Lib Dem Cllr Donna Boffa to force through a council tax rise, rather than the freeze that LibDems wanted.

Islington residents who might have forgotten life under Labour will have taken note that on the one day in a decade when they had a majority, Labour put up our taxes.

This year Liberal Democrat councillors will be proposing a council tax freeze again, and it looks as if they’ve got Labour to concede. We’ll find out at the Council meeting next Thursday.

Labour not putting taxes up? It must be election year….

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Council tax: will Labour eat their words?

Islington residents will have smiled wryly at the claim that Labour-led boroughs will be freezing the Council Tax next year.

As we know all too well, Islington Labour put up our council tax this year, to pay for their pet project of universal free primary school meals. Given that families on low incomes already get free meals, Islington Labour’s scheme is redistributing money from poorer council tax payers to richer parents. There are also concerns about whether this will distort the ‘free school meals’ tally on which many government grants to Islington depend. Plus it’s not at all clear that schools have the infrastructure or the budgets to deliver free school meals across the board. Even school meals champion Jamie Oliver has doubts that this is the best use of limited funds.

As Islington’s lone Green councillor, Katie Dawson, said at the time, “I’ve become increasingly nervous about how the free school meals will be funded. I’ve agonised over this and taken professional advice and remain unconvinced that going into a recession it is wise to empty all the coffers of the council.”

Other councils piloting free school meals – like Newham, Wolverhampton and County Durham – are getting their schemes subsidised by central government. If national Labour think this is such a good idea that they will fund it elsewhere, why do they expect local council taxpayers to pick up the whole bill in Islington? And if Islington’s Labour MPs really have clout on behalf of our community, why didn’t they get us into the national pilot instead? It seems they care more about posturing than policy.

Meanwhile the Lib Dem council is taking real action to improve things for local kids. There’s a new uniform grant for children starting secondary school. Record results at Key Stages 1 and 2, and the best GCSE results ever, show the difference we’ve made. Nationally, Lib Dem plans for a pupil premium would see class sizes halved for 5-7 year olds. By contrast Labour’s policy is not to cut class sizes but to cut teachers.

When Labour ran Islington, we had the highest council tax in the country and some of the worst services. Since then Lib Dems have regularly cut and frozen the council tax; and even in years when it’s gone up, it’s stayed below the London average. Then this year, the first time Labour had a majority in the Town Hall for a decade, they put the tax up again.

Judge them by their deeds not their words.

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That YouTube link…

… is now updated and you can see the highlights of Islington’s council tax debate here.

I’ve corrected the link in my previous post too; just in time, as the increased council tax bills are now hitting the door mats.

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The comrades aren’t listening

Islington’s budget meeting (where Labour put up our council tax to fund universal free school meals) is now out on YouTube.

It’s shocking to hear Labour calling each other ‘comrade’, a real blast from the past. Don’t they realise their tax rise will hurt far more people -and more vulnerable people – than it will help?

Meanwhile Jamie Oliver has condemned Labour’s free school meals plan. As he says “British law at the moment is: if you are so poor you can’t afford it, the government will pay for your free school meal. That’s more than adequate.” His argument is that it’s better to invest money in better school kitchens or quality ingredients than to subsidise turkey twizzlers for all.

Sadly it seems the comrades aren’t listening.

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Islington’s council tax debate debacle

The dramatic Islington council budget meeting – and shock council tax rise from Labour – continue to make the news.

There’s coverage in the Islington Gazette, the Tribune, the Evening Standard, and a thoughtful analysis on Jeremy Hargreaves’ blog.

Meanwhile I’ve received this message from Council leader James Kempton:

“I am writing to inform you that Labour councillors blocked our Liberal Democrat proposals to freeze the council tax this year. At last night’s council meeting to set Islington’s 2009 budget, they imposed a 2.5% rise on hard pressed Islington residents struggling through the recession, which is the highest council tax rise anywhere in inner London.

“My colleagues and I have been speaking to hundreds of local residents over the past few weeks who have backed our campaign against the council tax going up. Hundreds of people have signed our petition and written letters of support.

“I am very sorry that Labour cynically took advantage of the absence of one of our Liberal Democrat councillors who was rushed to hospital for an emergency procedure to push through this unwelcome tax rise.

“Liberal Democrats have kept our promise every year to keep council tax below the London average, and residents trust us to keep bills low whilst improving services. But Labour doesn’t care about residents except wanting to keep their hands on more of their hard earned cash.

“As if Gordon Brown hasn’t done enough damage, here we have Labour rubbing salt in the wound, squeezing more money out of hard pressed residents who are already suffering from the worst recession in 100 years

“In the council meeting last night, Labour councillors were calling each other “comrades.” It was just like ten years ago, when the then Labour council saddled residents with the highest council tax in London . Labour’s council tax hike shows what would happen if Labour ever took back control of the council again.

“If you haven’t done so already please sign our petition at http://campaigns.libdems.org.uk/dontraiseourcounciltax to show your support for this campaign, and to send a message to Labour that they are not listening to the wishes of the people of Islington.”

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Labour impose inner London’s highest council tax rise on Islington

So now we know.

As soon as they get the chance, Labour jack up our taxes.

Last night’s budget meeting in Islington was always going to be dramatic. With equal numbers of Labour and Lib Dem councillors, plus one independent and one Green, I hoped that a sensible majority would back the Lib Dem proposal to freeze the council tax. After all that’s clearly what local people wanted.

Then Cllr Donna Boffa – who was already poorly when I saw her last weekend – was hospitalised: and Labour seized their chance to hijack the budget.

When Labour ran Islington Council, we had the highest council tax in London. Last night, true to form, they gave us London’s highest council tax rise.

Labour councillors may be feeling jubilant that they’ve got their tax rise through; but it is ordinary Islington residents who will be paying the price.

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