Cash strapped Durham County Council today turned down a a £2 million council tax freeze grant (guaranteed for three years), preferring instead to increase council tax by 1.99%.
It’s true that in order to accept the £6 million the council would have had to find an additional £1.25 million savings per year. That’s why Liberal Democrat councillors showed them a way to do that which included reducing the number of directors in what is clearly a top-heavy management structure, and slimming down a number of PR departments (the county council has 6!) into just one. That would not only have provided enough savings to avoid a council tax rise, but also to bank £600,000 towards the next round of savings that have to be made.
That however was unacceptable to all Labour Party councillors (and most Independents) who voted through the council tax rise, a rise which will add more to council tax payers bills than most of them will receive by way of pay rises this year.
Labour Party councillors (and most Independents) also voted down my amendment to reduce mileage rates for staff and councillors to the Inland Revenue approved rate of 45p. That’s a no brainer recognised by most councils, businesses and other bodies across Britain because it avoids tax complications, cuts down on expensive paperwork, and reduces miles driven. Even MPs and Civil Servants get 45p, but for some reason known best to itself, and against all logic, County Durham goes on paying over the odds at 48p.
So when you get your council tax bill, remember who sets the budget in this county, and who lines up to vote with them. And ask yourself in whose interests they set it.