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Lib Dem-run Kingston Council rejects Council Tax freeze

Cllr Robert-John Tasker, a Conservative councillor in Kingston, on how the Lib Dem Council has dismissed  George Osborne's Council Tax freeze offer, despite having the highest Council Tax in London.

Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrats on Kingston Council do not seem to understand the basic principle of value for money. They, as I’ve pointed out all too often, are a tax and waste party, hell-bent on spending lavish sums of money without realising the damaging effects this has on the local economy, council finances, and more importantly, the tax-payer.

Here is the reply from Lib Dem council leader Derek Osbourne to my written question surrounding George Osborne’s proposals on a two year council tax freeze:

Question: "Would the Leader of the Administration join my colleague, the Leader of the Conservative Group, in praising the proposals by the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, in proposing to put a two year freeze on council tax bills in order to give families a break?"

Reply: "No, I will not be praising George Osborne on his plan. I do not believe that a proposed Council Tax freeze is a sensible (or even viable) policy to aid households affected by our present economic crisis. Based upon the latest three year forecast (reported to the Executive on 4 November 2008), a council tax increase of 0% for the next three years would require budget reductions totalling £19.771 million. Of this, approximately £3.3 million was approved at Budget Council on 27 February 2008, which would leave a further £16.471 million to be found."

"I do not believe that a proposed Council Tax freeze is a sensible (or even viable) policy to aid households affected by our present economic crisis.’’ And here is the classic problem. It’s a question of priorities. He does not believe it will help households affected by our present economic crisis. He is joking isn’t he? We have the highest council tax in London and the third highest in the country. Many of our young people have left the Borough to move into neighbouring boroughs, such as Wandsworth, because they cannot afford the huge rates. Our elderly people struggle on a week to week basis to buy essentials and to heat their homes. Our young families are finding the cost of living too much but dare not move because of our superior local schools. 

But let’s look at the waste and prove that savings can be made: The New Malden high street revamp, has cost £700,000 to date. A project vociferously pursued by the Lib Dems and one which that been so mismanaged that that even two years after the project has finished, the high street is still running to a stand-still. Kingston’s new theatre continues to be a drain on tax-payers’ money as the £11million + project is currently running by at least £900,000 a year. A study was commissioned as far back as 2003 which suggested the provision of an external ramp and internal platform lift for a third of the sum is being spent, now around half a million pounds (and likely to over-run).

This, of course, is what Cllr Osbourne fails to point out and does not want the tax-payer of Kingston to know. Compare a Band D property in Kingston which attracts council tax of £1,579.57 with Tory controlled Wandsworth which is less than half of that, at £681.92 for properties in the same band.

It’s a question of priorities and a whether or not one has the will to achieve what other Conservative Groups in London have done. But judging from the attitude of the Kingston Lib Dems we have a long way to go before we can achieve the tax-cutting success of our colleagues in other parts of the capital.

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