In 25 days, at the start of April, the rubber will hit the road for our new Labour council when their new budget comes into force. Although they will have been in power for almost a year it is not until the whole budget setting cycle is complete that their priorities and decisions really get to be seen by the public. As I have said before: To govern is to choose.
Many of the decisions in Labourâ€™s first budget, see documents here, would have been made in much the same way by a Conservative council. It is quite clear that central governmentâ€™s 28% cut in revenue support grant across the board would have forced many of the same unpleasant choices on a Tory administration too. But, there are alternatives which I hope to illustrate over the next 25 days.
One item the Conservative opposition approves of is that Labour is continuing the policy of freezing council tax for a third year. As the opposition leader, Jason Stacey, said in his remarks after the budget setting council:
We do however, welcome the Government grant of Â£3.1 million to enable the Council Tax to be frozen for the third year, following the two year freeze under the previous Conservative administration, which will help hard pressed families in the borough during this challenging economic time.
Keeping your council tax low with a freeze in the first year.
After two years of 1.9% from the Tories followed by zero for two years and a further zero from Labour it will be hard to see how council tax can go up by more than the odd percent and still be described as â€œlowâ€. We hope that we have changed Ealing Labourâ€™s approach to council tax for good.