Friday, 15 February 2008

Council Tax 3.9% Rise

The Council meeting last night set the Council Tax rise at 3.9%

The meeting was also notable for several other reasons. My failure to convince the Council to spend £21,875 to introduce web streaming of the Main Council Chamber (and main Committee Room) was not unexpected, but the fight goes on since they didn't totally shut the door on the idea. A debate on whether we should have all up elections every four years did get interesting and there were some rare moments of agreement between myself and a couple of Labour Councillors. However, when the meeting went into closed session the result was the most disgraceful decision I have ever seen from the Labour Group, (aided by a couple of compliant Lib-Dims). As it was on "pink papers" I will not discuss it here. Actually I'm not discussing it because I have been asked not to by the organisation it affects; if it was just council procedure rules hiding the truth from the public then I'd publish and be damned! It’s been a while since I was at Standards Board, wouldn't want people to think I was slipping! More detailed posts will follow on the above issues.

But, getting back to the subject of this post, Council tax and the 3.9% rise. This was despite a better than expected settlement from the government. The Mayor had his usual whinge about Floor Dampening and the Labour Group Leader made his usual Party Political Broadcast about how wonderful the Labour Government was, all Hail Gordon from whom all blessings flow, etc and that we should thank the Labour Government for their largess. I am certain that if brown nosing was all it took to become a Labour MP then young Brashy should be gracing the green leather benches by now! (Actually brown nosing is probably the key skill for a Labour MP, after all it’s what most of them build their careers on!)

During “debate” a Lib-dim complained that the Police Precept had to go up because of immigrants coming into the country and the police needed more money to deal with them. All the fault of the European Union SHE SAID! Wonders will never cease a Euro sceptic Lib-Dem! Has she ever read her party policy on the European Union?

I felt I had to congratulate the Mayor and senior officers on the budget documents. The care, attention to detail, presentation and sheer hard work that went into the documents were obvious. The budget documents were in fact so outstanding that they qualified the budget as, in my opinion, as good a piece of creative writing as I've ever seen on the Fantasy and Fiction Shelves at W.H.Smith.

That of course that was interpreted as an attack on the Mayor and the Officers, and surprise surprise that was indeed how the Labour Group chose to play it. The only surprise to me was one Labour Councillor getting very snide and sarcastic about me personally. It wasn't the personal attack that surprised me, just the individual making it, I'd always thought better of him. Just shows how wrong I can be. The Labour Councillors failed to understand (or chose not to listen more likely) that I also said that, in my opinion, the local government budget process was fatally flawed and unfit for purpose and that is why I couldn’t support a budget that was produced through a process that should be torn up and re-drafted from scratch.

At some point someone is going to have to stand up for the Council Taxpayers of Hartlepool and stop them being treated like sheep to be shorn shorter and shorter every year.

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