Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Merton council tax set to rise by 3.9%

Over the past few months the budget has been the major issue of discussion within Merton Council. Recently in the local newspapers, the Tories on Merton Council have been complaining about a poor budget settlement from the Government and having to put up Council Tax by 3.9% to make up for the shortfall. Yet if were to look behind the propaganda put out by Tory-run Merton Council, it seems that they've also managed to accumulate over £10 million pounds of taxpayers' money and this is set to rise even further next year to over 8% of council income. This is the equivalent of £89 for every household paying the full council tax. This is public money and belongs with the public, when Labour left office in 2006 we had over £5 million in reserves and managed to keep council tax down, at the time it was judged acceptable by the Audit Commission.

Last year the Tories raised council tax by 3.6% way above the 2.5% the outgoing Labour administration had promised. Due to the success of the former Labour administration in achieving targets - the Council also benefited from a reward grant from the government of £2 million pounds. This money should have been used to support services and reduce the council tax, instead it is lying fallow in a bank account.

This year’s proposed council tax increase is even worse at 3.9% or about £41 on Band D and way above the nationally approved CPI inflation rate of 2.1%. With the money currently available this should be significantly reduced, it's quite clear that the Tories are putting council tax up now to freeze or cut tax before the next election.
This money should be used now and belongs with the public.

The Council is also proposing unnecessary cuts to vital services for disabled and elderly people and to street cleaning, gully cleansing, fly tip removal, graffiti enforcement, street lighting, the removal of untaxed vehicles as well as charging for library internet use and disabled parking bays. Clearly 'Putting You First' has turned into 'Putting You Last'.

At the same time, the Tory administration are pushing for a 25% rise in cabinet members and other senior Tory councillors. While they plead poverty - allowances seem to be exempted at the expense of services. The Labour group on Merton Council are opposing these excessive and unjustified rises.

Over the next week scrutiny will be looking over the budget, but it's quite clear that Merton Council is not in the perilous financial position that they claim to be in. The final budget will be decided at a council meeting on 5th March.


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