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You see! Hackney at the top of every story these days!

Conservative councils cost you less?

I have been complaining to my local Tory councillors in Richmond upon Thames about the fact that the council tax has risen by over a quarter in three years. The non-GLA part has risen by over a fifth - and council spending has risen by a similar amount.

We now have the highest council tax in the country and Lib Dems campaigning against us on council tax cuts.

And they wonder why the Lib Dems have won 5 Tory seats in by-elections in two years!!!

The taxes paid locally are often higher, Selsdon, because the priorities the government uses to set the grants levels for councils tend to disadvantage Conservative councils.

Richmond may be a wasteful council, or it may have no choice in the matter. The government imposes a lot of duties on councils, without giving them the money to carry them out. At the same time, business rates go directly to the government, which then redistributes them in the form of grants (which are of course skewed to Labour-voting areas).

Hertfordshire is consistently rated as an Excellent council by the audit commission, yet has had to put up council tax very sharply over the past 5 years, simply because the government keeps it so short of money.

Er, might it be because Labour held councils tend to be in the more relatively deprived areas?

No, being in a relatively deprived area doesn't mean delivering the same services costs more.

"being in a relatively deprived area doesn't mean delivering the same services costs more."

I thought that if you live in a relatively deprived area it does affect the money you have available to provide the services, because insufficient revenue is collected from the local residents once council tax benefits, single parent tax benefits and other subsidised housing is removed from the available revenue.

Plus fewer high value properties are available to fleece which often means homes worth e.g. £200,000, band f, in deprived areas often pay more per annum in Council tax than big properties in plush areas like Kensington and Chelsea by banding charge.

Delivering the same services should cost about the same in a deprived area and may even cost a bit less due to lower wages. However, in a deprived area the council has to deliver more services. There will be a greater need for Social Services, for example, and the Council is likely to be paying out more in Housing Benefit. The income from Council Tax will also be lower in a deprived area - more people not paying Council Tax and a lower average property value.

In theory the formula used is supposed to ensure that Council Tax levels are broadly the same across the country. In order to achieve that it should have a bias towards deprived areas, which would tend to favour Labour councils. The question is whether that bias is fair. I suspect that the bias is too great at the moment.

"and may even cost a bit less due to lower wages"

Peter I was told at a recent Council meeting that the wages are agreed by National bargaining, not local pay rates.

Local government finance is too complicated for any sane person to understand. Fortunately in Wandsworth we have a quite insane, but brilliant, Director of Finance, and 50 Conservative Councillors whose every waking hour is spent making tough decisions to ensure value for money and a low council tax.
The bottom line is that a low council tax is the product of strong political leadership, eternal vigilance, and prioritisation.
Reference to these three qualities will show you why there is a difference in council tax, and quality, outcomes between Wandsworth and Richmond upon Thames.

I agree, local government finance is horrendously complex.

There is always a temptation for a government to redistribute money from its opponents to its supporters.

No, being in a relatively deprived area doesn't mean delivering the same services costs more.

Well, a huge proportion of Council spending is effectively ringfenced by central government. Salford City Council spends 70% of it's income on education and social services, and spending on social services is higher in deprived areas.

Also being in an area with a high proportion of low-band properties means that you end up with a high Band D rate and a low average rate. A council with 1000 band-A properties only would have to charge twice as much Band D Council tax as a council with 1000 band-G properties, in order to raise the same amount of money.

This is true 'Modern Conservatism': actually delivering better services for less money. I wonder if the modernisers find that too plain difficult and unsexy?

This is terrible news. All this talk about tac cuts and public service reform in Wandsworth is bound to be costing us votes there. I'm sure it will lead to us losing in all the parliamentary seats and probably the council too. It's so reactionary, so last century. I can't believe they are allowed to go on behaving like this and refusing to move on and accept Wandsworth as it is, not as they would like it to be.

Tory councils tend to be in richer areas its true, and so they probably have more money per head. But Labour councils are in cities, they probably have to spend much much less on day to day services, like garbage collection and gritting roads. Either way, it doesn't matter what the intricate details are, its still great ammunition for the Tories. Not that we really need it when it comes to local elections, eh?

As we sit gridlocked in the Wandsworth one-way system, I'm forever saying to Mrs T "look around you, my sweet- this is the best run local authority in Britain". So the Commisssion's findings are no surprise.

But although they find nearly half of our LA's are not achieving even acceptable levels of value for money- shocking enough- scrutiny of the underlying methodology strongly suggests the real picture is still worse. That's because the LA's themselves are the ones providing the basic assessments.

The Commission's original scoring proposals were watered down after "stakeholders" (ie the LAs) complained they were too tough.

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