It’s not really news, since the intention has been known for weeks – and could have been guessed for months, if not years – but Wandsworth formally set a 0% increase in council tax for 2010/11 last night at a special meeting of the full council.
They are always odd meetings. You would expect them to be something of a set-piece occasion, it is, after all, the council’s budget. But we don’t have red boxes, or quaint traditions that the relevant councillor is allowed, on this one occasion, a sip of whiskey in the chamber. Instead we have a fairly dry affair in which the Conservatives lay out their proposals and Labour try and argue against them; try and fail.
It must be hard, you’ve got a good council, well rated independently, with incredibly high resident satisfaction and the lowest council tax in the country. What, exactly, do you go for?
To give the Labour party their due, they did try. Their argument was for exactly the same council tax, but with three key differences.
- Pay people more,
- Except high earners who should be paid less (they implied senior council officers were “socially useless” which suggests they’ve already given up hopes of winning the council and working with them in May), and
- Lord Ashcroft.
It was a truly bizarre argument. Essentially socialist on pay with attempts at political point-scoring as if Ashcroft were also funding the council. (And missing the point that they have their own non-dom funder in Lord Paul, not to mention the numerous peerages they sold to taxpayers.) Indeed, I wonder why I am even airing their arguments here, since not a single member of the public or press was in attendence for the meeting.
But aside from their bluster the business of the council went through. And council tax stays the same for the third year running. Wandsworth is an incredibly well-run and managed authority, and credit it due to all the people involved, from top to bottom.