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.

4 Comments »

  1. Philip Stevens said

    Well done Bridget for telling people just how it is. FSM for everyone was a ludicrous idea, Labour never really thought it through. Islington has never been so clean, schools got better results, since it has been run by Liberal Democrats, Islington can never again be allowed to become a Labour run council. They nearly ruined Islington once before, the people of Islington deserver to continue to have a Liberal democrat run council.

    • caroline Siegel said

      Labour or Lib/Dem, what’s the difference? Admittedly the borough was run very badly under Margaret Hodge, but has something changed under the LIb/Dem? This borough was sold out to Arsenal under th duo Hitchins/Fox. they were both ousted as councillors at the last council election. Their behind the scene deals with Arsenal has seen a massive upheavel in Islington, not least because of the parking situation. We were dripped fed lies after lies until the club got what it wanted. What about the leaseholders massive repair bills? Why has she been absent from every hustings concerning tenants and leaseholders? I guess it’s easy posturing standing in front of the post office pretending to have saved it from closure, to get her picture in the paper. Ms Fox wants to be our MP. Perhaps she should start by helping leaseholders facing bankrupcy thanks to the massive bills Labour has imposed on them.

  2. bridgetfox said

    Phil – thank you for your comments. I can definitely see the benefits of investing in primary education, but I genuinely don’t think universal free school meals is the top priority.

    Caroline – I think we will have to agree to differ about the Arsenal. I’m a leaseholder myself and I’ve attended every hustings to which I’ve been invited.

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