Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Councillors blast 'High Tax Tories' for saying Council Tax levels "not important"

An update following the Way We Work Panel that I chaired last night.

Councillors on Merton Council's Way We Work scrutiny panel have thrown out Tory plans to remove Council Tax targets, and have criticised the new administration for describing levels of local taxation as "not important". They met in the wake of the announcement the Conservative administration plans to raise Council Tax by more than inflation (3.6%) in 2007/8.

The new Tory-led Cabinet had intended to remove a target that Merton should have one of London's lowest Council Tax levels, as they claimed it was "not important". The Way We Work panel has recommended that the target is reinstated, and have referred their decision to the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Commission. The decision could then be referred back to the Cabinet for reconsideration.

The Panel has also rejected Conservative plans to increase the charges it makes to schools, colleges and community groups for using Merton's payroll services by £80,000. Councillors said schools should not suffer because of the financial mess the Council has got into since May last year.

The panel was chaired by Cllr Martin Whelton. He said:

"There was a very spirited discussion, and we decided by a clear majority to aim for low taxes in comparison to other Councils. I hope the decision is upheld by future Council meetings, and that we throw out the Conservatives' high tax plans."

The Way We Work panel member Cllr Mark Allison said:

"The Tories aren't up to the job and their financial blundering means we can expect high Council Tax rises from now on."

"I am angry the Tories have said that's "not important". We need to keep the previous Labour administration's long term targets to have one of London's lowest Council taxes."

Cllr Mark Betteridge, another panel member added:

"Passing on the costs of the Cabinet's failure to schools and voluntary groups is not right. We don't think they should be penalised."


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