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Ealing and Northfield

Bell does a McShane

Ealing TownhallApparently the Labour party is trying on for size the idea that it should appear to be in favour of cutting taxes. This time last week Denis McShane had a piece in the Telegraph and asked: “Can the Left be tax-cutters? Why not? “.

This evening the new leader of Labour in Ealing, Cllr Julian Bell, gave the notion a road test here. I attended my first cabinet meeting as a cabinet member tonight. The most important report we discussed was the one setting out the council’s budget strategy and process. In this report the cabinet were asked to agree to the following recommendation:

Agree that a cash efficiency target of 4.9% of net departmental budgets be set as part of the 2009/10 budget strategy and 3% across the following two years in line with government efficiency target for local authorities.

This is a demanding target and one that we will have to work very hard to meet. Apparently this was not good enough for Councillor Bell who asked that we seek to identify further savings with a view to perhaps proposing a council tax freeze or even cutting the council tax.

As you no doubt know the new Conservative administration has delivered a below inflation 1.9% council tax rise two year’s running in Ealing.

Heaven rejoices, we are told, over a sinner that repenteth but I fear that Cllr Bell’s new found tax cutting zeal is not that credible. He is one of the Labour councillors who voted through the 25.9% increase in council tax in 2003. Just to remind you in 1997/8 the Ealing Band D council tax was £585. By 2006/7, only 9 years later, it had risen to £1,309. That is a 124% rise.

Incidentally the cabinet agreed all of the recommendations of the Parking Services Specialist Scrutiny Panel.