Last night’s full council meeting was typically rumbustuous. See agenda and list of motions here. After some argy-bargy about box junctions, more on that later, the main business of the evening was Council Tax. The following Tory motion was debated for the largest part of the evening, the Labour group withdrawing their motion:
This Council notes that in the twelve years to 2006 Council Tax in Ealing rose by 178.5%, a rate of increase greater than 31 of the 32 other London Councils. Council resolves to continue this administration’s policy of easing the financial burden on residents by keeping any Council Tax increases to below the rate of inflation.
Amazingly, after a tortuous defence of their past records both the Labour group and the Lib-Dems voted in favour of this motion. Some of the Labour councillors were looking a little green around the gills and only kind of half put their hands up. Councillor Liz Brookes looked particularly sheepish and Councillor Patricia Walker kept her hand firmly down. It just shows how quickly the zeitgeist has turned that this open-ended commitment to keep Council Tax below inflation indefinitely has been supported by both of the tax raising parties. Only a few months ago it is clear that the tax raising parties would have voted against. Now it is a no-brainer.
Just to make sure everyone is clear the Tories produced this press release last night:
TORIES SLATE LABOUR FOR SHAMELESS HYPOCRISY ON COUNCIL TAX
Ealing Conservatives tonight attacked Labour for their hypocrisy and political opportunism on Council Tax. Labour put a motion to Council calling for cuts to Council Tax despite their record as one of the highest taxing Groups of any party in London ever.
Labour increased Council Tax in Ealing by a staggering 178.5% during their period in office (1994-2006) – the second highest increase out of London’s 33 Boroughs. The level of Council Tax doubled in real terms as Ealing went from being one of the lowest tax Councils in London to one of the highest. Meanwhile Ealing services deteriorated as the Audit Commission officially labelled Ealing as having the dirtiest streets and the worst rated Social Services department in London.
Cabinet Member for Finance, Cllr David Scott said: “If the Labour Party in Ealing think they can con residents into believing they have a good record on tax they really are out of touch. Residents know they were stuffed by Labour on Council Tax and only a Conservative administration has been able to deliver real terms cuts.
“The biggest victims of Labour’s Council Tax grab in Ealing were those who could afford it least. The elderly saw the share of their state pension taken up by Council tax increase from 15.7% when Labour came in 1994 to 29.9% when they were booted out in 2006. We have reversed that trend in the last two years with below inflation increases, but only in the face of opposition from Cllr Bell and his Labour colleagues. Cllr Bell should apologise to residents for the high tax misery he and his colleagues inflicted on Ealing.”