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Is Livingstone's support for Council Tax rises just "hypothetical"?

The Labour Group on the London Assembly, who include Val Shawcross, Ken Livingstone's running mate in this year's London Mayoral race, has issued a press release with the following intriguing comment:

 A 1 per cent increase in the City Hall share of council tax would cost the average Londoner just 26p a month.  

The problem was that when Ken Livingstone was the Mayor of London last time round he didn't just put up the Council Tax precept by 1% but by 153% over his eight years in charge.

But some might interpret the comment from as indicating that a 1% increase in the precept would be a reasonable idea. Otherwise why include the words? The Boris campaign have asked if this represents Ken Livingstone's policy. The trade union funded blog Political Scrapbook has responded that this is "hypothetical". To construe it as an indication of policy is "desperate lies."

Well then what is the true position? Does Livingstone pledge that he would freeze the Council Tax precept for the coming four years? Many Londoners might be sceptical were he to make such a pledge but unless I have missed it he is yet to even do so.

On the contrary the evidence of the Evening Standard interview with Livingstone gave a pretty clear warning that he would revert to type. He said:

 'I am never going to live in a world where someone with my policies gets an easy time from the media. I am going to increase your taxes and, of course, you don't want to vote for me.'

Then Political Scrapbook claim that the Labour members of the London Assembly support the Council Tax freeze. But all eight members of the Labour group voted against a budget that freezes council tax at yesterday's meeting. It was a named vote, and the question was whether 'to approve the Mayor's budget'.

John Biggs, Val Shawcross (Ken's running mate), Navin Shah, Murad Qureshi, Len Duvall, Nicky Gavron, Jennette Arnold and Joanne McCartney all said, when asked, "against".

That's the standard to which they should be held, because that is the action that matters. That is what their constituents should judge them on. In 12 years, Labour have never once voted in favour of a council tax freeze. They nodded through all of Ken Livingstone's tax raising budgets, and opposed of all Boris's ones that provided a freeze.

There is another, final vote, on 9th February and the Boris campaign are urging Londoners to lobby their Assembly member to support the budget.


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