Friday, 28 October 2011

Greenhalgh video: cutting taxes in H&F

Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh is upset that he hasn't cut taxes more and plans to bring our borough to the levels of Wandsworth and K&C. In this video which I've just been sent, he spoke at a fringe meeting of the Taxpayers Alliance.

This is one of the many Cllr Greenhalgh spoke at, including the event I covered in Manchester for the blog with Greg Hands MP, covering much the same ground.At that meeting Cllr Greenhalgh made an impassioned plea for what he regarded as more "freedom" for local authorities to be more responsive and accountable to their residents.

Have a watch - bear in mind he is speaking to a Tory audience, so he wasn't using the tone he might do at a public meeting, but it is a useful insight into the psyche of our Council.

Opponents will make the point that all of this cutting has already come at a large cost - to local services such as Sure Start and the voluntary sector. But it is also no bad thing, surely, that the bill to the taxpayer is on a downward curve. And some of the Council's ideas for saving our cash are hard to argue against - sharing a Chief Exec is a very good start indeed. So let's have more savings on waste and less on services to the vulnerable - pie in the sky?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'm not so sure that sharing a Chief Executive IS such a good idea, actually. (Or indeed sharing any other council executive posts.)

    In my view, it's a cunning piece of political sleight-of-hand that is designed to keep H&F Conservative forever.

    My reasoning is this: we are being joined up with two local authorities which are very likely to be permanently Conservative-run.

    That's fine when H&F is also Conservative, because everyone gets along just fine.

    But what happens when the good people of H&F elect a Labour administration? (They sometimes do, and are entitled to.)

    One quite likely outcome is that my imaginary Labour administration disagrees with the approach that the other two authorities are taking.

    They may wish to change how they spend their money, or perhaps use a different provider that costs more but delivers a better service.

    Maybe they'll need to hire some senior people to run things in the way they want, on salaries to match their skills and experience. Perhaps even a Chief Exec who is more sympathetic?

    It'll be virtually impossible - even if it's the right thing for H&F residents.

    Here's why: council tax is going to be lowered so that the costs with "shared" services become the new baseline.

    That means the theoretical Labour administration will be unable to change anything without being forced to "raise" the council tax.

    Even though it may be the right thing to do - it'll play badly with the electorate. That's despite the fact it'll simply be returning the council tax to the level it was before the merger.

    The Conservative opposition would be able to make a strong case that this is a "waste of money" because it's likely to cost more than the original service...

    And of course if they return to power, they'll perform the same trick again - so Conservative administrations will ALWAYS deliver low council tax, and Labour/Lib Dems "high" council tax.

    This move is engineered to hamper a non-Conservative administration's ability to exercise its democratic mandate.

    I'm amazed this plan isn't causing more controversy than it is.