Isn’t it odd to hear the Labour and Green Party GLA members belittling Boris Johnson’s council freeze because it will only save 11p a week on council tax? These are the same people who presumably believe that 2.5% off VAT will save the world.
What they fail to realise is that we finally have a Mayor who is serious about controlling the City Hall budget, and that’s good news that doesn’t just last until the end of next year.
In his 8 years as Mayor Ken Livingstone managed to double the precept City Hall took to run the GLA from £150 to over £300 – that’s about 11% a year. Assuming past record is a good indicator of future performance (and I reckon eight years is enough to get a handle on him) it means the difference between a Johnson and Livingstone mayoralty is that the average household will be £400 better off.
Last night saw Wandsworth’s last full council meeting of the year. My main part was speaking in a debate on the results of the business survey carried out earlier this year.
It showed that business confidence was declining (even though it was carried out before the news started to turn really bleak) but Wandsworth was generally feeling more confident than businesses elsewhere in London and the country. There was also good news that the council’s business support services are generally highly regarded.
What astounded me, however, is that the Labour Party really do seem to have fallen for the spin that Gordon Brown is some sort of world leader stirring everyone through a financial crisis. They applaud his VAT cut, but fail to notice that shops are having to have 10%, 20% and even 50% sales just to get them through Christmas!
On a day he said he’d saved the world (and while we all make slips of the tongue, they often reveal what we are really thinking) we also had the German finance minister calling Brown’s plans, “crass” and saying they would take a generation to pay off. It seems Brown is a world leader with no followers.
In the midst of this it’s down to Wandsworth to try and make things as good as we can for businesses in the borough, while no-one should be under any illusion times will be easy for business, hopefully we will be able to avoid the worst of it.
Forgive the 1980 film reference, but it seems that Gordon Brown really does think he’s Flash Gordon – the next stage will be Brian Blessed leading troops of winged warriors into our high streets to increase consumer spending.
If you live in Wandsworth you should be getting your copy of Residents’ News coming through your door soon. If you just can’t wait to read it, you can download the Shaftesbury version here: Shaftesbury Residents’ News – Winter 2008
Today Alistair Darling will announce that Labour have finally seen the benefits of low taxation.
Or has he? The BBC is currently reporting an expected temporary reduction in VAT to 15%, along with the introduction of a new higher rate tax band and the postponement of various other changes. In other words, we’re increasing taxes, not immediately, but it’s coming.
And it’s questionable who will benefit from the reduction in VAT. Any reduction in tax is not to be scoffed at, but if you take a low income household and consider where their income goes, much of it is spent on VAT exempt goods. The weekly food shop – mostly VAT free. Children’s clothes – VAT free. Fuel bills -already at a lower VAT rate.
Of course, they’ll save a few quid on their Christmas shopping, but I suspect that’s small consolation when the parents fear for their jobs as we head into recession.
Is there another way? Well, there was a good article in today’s Telegraph that points out that Conservative controlled councils are about the only places you see efficient, well-run and affordable government nowadays.