As an experiment I posted some updates from last night’s council meeting. They follow, in chronological order below, along with a few others that didn’t carry the #wwcnl hashtag. Most notably the shocking revelation that I stayed up to watch Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason when I got back. I am in touch with my feminine side.

It’s worth highlighting the second tweet from me, these will have some political bias.

From: jamescousins at 18:49, Tue 10 Mar
As an experiment I’ll be Tweeting from tonight’s council tax setting. Feel free to join in, I don’t want to be the only one using #wwcnl

From: mario at 18:51, Tue 10 Mar
RT @jamescousins I’ll be Tweeting from tonight’s council tax setting. Feel free to join in, I don’t want to be the only one using #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 18:53, Tue 10 Mar
I should add that I’m a Cabinet member and I’m the council’s controlling group, ao won’t be entirely impartial. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 19:06, Tue 10 Mar
That’s the first bit out of the way, the Executive have formally recommended a 0% increase. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 19:30, Tue 10 Mar
Kicking off the formal meeting now, in the Civic Suite following the roof collapse in the Chamber. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 19:47, Tue 10 Mar
Formalities, including tributes to former Cllr Julian Proudman, and a petition from Eccles Road residents done, now onto questions. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:02, Tue 10 Mar
Fascinating question from the opposition: while don’t you spend a few months consulting on your response to the recession? #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 20:04, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins Anyone would think that the Labour response to anything is to spend money on consulting. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:09, Tue 10 Mar
@agentoffortune I did find it bizarre, you can guess the result: would you like the council to do something to help? Y\/N #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 20:11, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins I was slightly off, the standard procedure should be spend a fortune on consulting, then try and take away civil rights #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:13, Tue 10 Mar
@agentoffortune You missed off setting up a national database! #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:24, Tue 10 Mar
Just noticed two people in the public gallery, bringing the total audience including Twitter, to three! #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 20:29, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins sorry only 140 chars you see ūüôā I’ve taken the data base as read ūüôā #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:31, Tue 10 Mar
Questions over, first item for discussion are children’s services grant allocations for the coming year. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:47, Tue 10 Mar
Short debate on awarding a grant to an organisation whose original application was unsuccessful. Lost 38-6. Council tax setting next. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:50, Tue 10 Mar
Deputy Leader presenting our budget. 0% rise in tax, some extra spending, some money in reserves for when the days get rainier. #wwcnl

From: LouiseBrown at 20:51, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins it’s a bad night for the council tax discussion … the liverpool game is AMAZING! #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:53, Tue 10 Mar
Labour presenting their alternative. They’ve been reading Keynes; 0% rise, use reserves to create around 50 jobs & re-visit charges. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:54, Tue 10 Mar
@LouiseBrown I only watch Liverpool when Grimsby are beating them! #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 20:58, Tue 10 Mar
Labour takes the pessimism award, comparing the situation to the 30s when it "took a world war to fix the economy". Brown’s plan B? #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 21:02, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins Wow Brown has a plan B? I think he would be relieved if you could get in touch and let him know what it was. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:04, Tue 10 Mar
We’re getting into discussion on Friedman and John Maynard now – it’s Milton Keynes! (sorry, couldn’t resist). #wwcnl

From: ingridk at 21:06, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins is tweeting a Wandsworth Council meeting #wwcnl and making bad economist puns.

From: jamescousins at 21:06, Tue 10 Mar
@agentoffortune Well, from tonight’s discussion it seems to be 10 years of depression and 6 of world war. Might keep that to myself! #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 21:10, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins The annoying thing is that if the govt announced that as the plan I’d feel a bit better cos at least they had a plan. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:19, Tue 10 Mar
There are some odd arguments coming from Labour, we should have higher tax and spend more, but also lower tax to stimulate spending. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:29, Tue 10 Mar
Moving to a vote, Labour’s proposal loses 44-6. Tory 0% rise approved 44-6. So no rise in tax for Wandsworth residents this year. #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 21:30, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins I love the idea that Labour want to raise taxes. They really are out of ideas. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:32, Tue 10 Mar
Recession debate. Apparently we should have a credit crunch task force. Wow. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:32, Tue 10 Mar
@agentoffortune Hmmm, but they are also open to lowering taxes. One person suggested both. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:37, Tue 10 Mar
Another suggestion from Labour that we should be reducing tax. Why can’t they at least be consistent? #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 21:41, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins I’m so glad I’m not there. I certainly don’t have the tact or patience for local politics. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:44, Tue 10 Mar
@agentoffortune I sometimes wonder if I do! #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 21:45, Tue 10 Mar
A lull in Tweeting, have to speak later on in this debate, although the arguments I’m answering are fairly incoherent. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 22:00, Tue 10 Mar
Well, my speech went down well, rapturous applause & a standing ovation (if only). Now for the opposition leader to have a go at me. #wwcnl

From: peterholt99 at 22:00, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins (even!) – sod the tweeting about the agenda – what the hell did you do to cause the roof to collapse?

From: jamescousins at 22:03, Tue 10 Mar
@peterholt99 Apparently it was just old age (the roof’s, not mine). It’s been there since the 30s and decided enough is enough. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 22:14, Tue 10 Mar
And the last vote: council’s recession package approved 44-6. Apparently Labour don’t think we should do anything to help. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 22:16, Tue 10 Mar
And that’s that. Meeting over, let me know if you enjoyed it. Or not. #wwcnl

From: agentoffortune at 22:19, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins Labour don’t want to help apart from rasing and cuting taxes whilst consulting to see what can be done? #wwcnl

From: wandsworthdog at 22:32, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins Thanks. Did other councillors think you were txting the whole evening?

From: jamescousins at 22:48, Tue 10 Mar
@drodeh I can’t say they put forward the most coherent arguments. But I have a little bias, I suppose. #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 22:49, Tue 10 Mar
@wandsworthdog I think I’ve probably breached council standing orders and did feel a little self-conscious. But was it worth it? #wwcnl

From: jamescousins at 22:52, Tue 10 Mar
@agentoffortune Well, it isn’t my job to put them in a good light, but yes, it was opposition, rather than constructive debate. #wwcnl

From: mario at 22:54, Tue 10 Mar
@jamescousins interesting following your tweets from #wwcnl tonight. not on your side politically but appreciate you pushing the envelope!

From: jamescousins at 22:57, Tue 10 Mar
@mario Thanks. Thought it was worth a go. I’m not sure about the benefit, to you, the council or democratic engagement, but we’ll see #wwcnl

From: jesscousins at 23:36, Tue 10 Mar
RT @jamescousins Well, home from the meeting, and my wife is watching Bridget Jones. Should have gone to the pub!

From: jesscousins at 23:37, Tue 10 Mar
I’m off to bed. My husband is staying up to watch the rest of Bridget Jones!

From: sliah at 7:31, Wed 11 Mar
Yah! Sorry catching up on tweets, am at the no rise in council tax one

From: sliah at 7:36, Wed 11 Mar
@jamescousins my last tweet was in response to your no council tax rise tweet (yah), hmm found the twmeeting somewhat interesting from afar

From: LouiseBrown at 9:52, Wed 11 Mar
@jamescousins thanks for tweeting from #wwcnl last night, between you, @sadiqkhan and other Wands people i’m feeling much more connected

It was great to have confirmation that the audit commission have, once again, given Wandsworth’s services a top rating of 4* as an authority – the seventh successive year our services have been given the highest rating.

It gets even better that we’re still assessed as ‘improving strongly’ and that we’ve got top marks for ‘use of resources’ (essentially, we’re good value for money).

But when you add to all that our position as the UK’s lowest council tax it proves that we’re not idly boasting when we say we’re number one for service and value.

You can read more in the press release on the council’s website.

Posted via email from jamescousins’s posterous. Want to know what this is? Then click here.

Wandsworth announced today that there would be no increase in council tax.

This makes the second year in the row that Wandsworth has not increased its share of council tax. ¬†However, it’s the first time that bills have not gone up at all – since Ken Livingstone more than doubled his share in his eight years in power.

To add a bit of politics, it shows the value of having Conservative administrations at both City and Town Hall levels: both are committed to providing quality services, but both are committed to making them as efficient as possible, so we take as little as possible from you to pay for them.

Band D council tax remains at ¬£682, still the lowest in the country. ¬†Since the council continues to a top-rated authority by the Audit Commission we’re still number one for service and value.

With the Christmas hangovers barely worn off today sees the start of Woolworths closure programme. ¬†Wandsworth’s stores all close in the New Year, and will leave a big hole in the town centres they are leaving, and a bigger hole in the lives of the employees who are losing their jobs.

Shortly before Christmas Edward Lister, the council leader, announced the council’s programme to help the borough’s businesses and residents through the recession. ¬†A lot of these schemes are within my portfolio, and quite a few see their first airing at the Regeneration and Community Safety Overview and Scrutiny Committee early in the new year so I’ll highlight them here in the coming days. ¬†However, it’s worth just flagging up one of the leader’s comments:

Wandsworth ‘s council tax is the lowest in the country. We are committed to keeping our bills affordable for local people. When household budgets are stretched, a low tax can make a real difference.

And this is key.  In Wandsworth the average band D council tax is £681 per year.  Nationally the average is £1,370 Рthis means you are nearly £700 a year better off just for living in Wandsworth.  When times are hard, that makes a lot of difference.

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.