Thursday, March 06, 2008

Merton Council Budget meeting and 3.9% council tax rise

After a budget meeting lasting over three hours the Tory administration with the support of the Merton Park Residents' agreed to a council tax rise of 3.9% for the Merton element of the Council tax rise for 08/09. The Labour group on Merton had put forward a series of amendments which included a council tax cut of 1%, 0, 1% rise and a 2.5% rise and also proposed reversing a series of cuts to services from the budget. This would have been funded by reducing the level of reserves which are estimated to be £10.5 million and will increase to £11.5 million after the budget was agreed tonight. We believe this is a cynical attempt by the Conservative administration to build up the reserves and to freeze or cut tax in the final year. At the last election we promised that we'd not increase council tax by more the 2.5% in Merton, since the Tories have got in its risen by 3.6% last year and 3.9% this year, nearly 2.5% more then it would've been under Labour.

At the meeting itself, the Tories tried to filibuster and indeed the Labour opposition leader Andrew Judge did not get the opportunity to speak for nearly an hour as we wasted time hearing remarks from Tory cabinet members about the budget. We did however debate all eight amendments and put our point across about the hoarding of money and the impact the Tory cuts will have on the borough.

I got to speak at 10.10 despite Tory allegations by Tory leader David Williams that I was keeping quiet, it was just that my amendment was last in the running order for the meeting but it did mean I got to make one of the last speeches of the night.

This budget is bad for Merton and the residents' will be paying extra over the next year as part of the Tories con trick pay in advance scheme. Sadly though the people who'll suffer the most from their cuts and higher council tax will be the people on low income.


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