The Conservative Party in Southend yesterday released their batch of local election posters. It’s pretty unadventurous stuff, to be honest, but I did like the rather brazen one about council tax. It takes some fairly impressive cheek to print something which, if not an outright lie, is certainly highly misleading.
I’ve written before about how the Conservatives in Southend have not yet recovered from the psychological shock of being rejected so emphatically by the people of the town in May last year. They have no new ideas to sell, so they cling desperately to the belief that the voters made a mistake, which they are bound to realise soon. Right? …right?
That, I think, is the mindset behind the “SOUTHEND’S COUNCIL TAX BOMBSHELL” poster. Luckily for the local Conservatives, I have “fixed” it for them, above. I’m generous like that.
Yes, council tax is going up. I’m not happy about it. I don’t know anyone who is happy about it, in any party. There was one letter to the Echo, which unhelpfully ended up printed next to one of my own, which seemed genuinely thrilled at the prospect, but I’m going to take that as the exception proving the rule.
The simple reason why council tax is going up, is that the Tory-led government in Westminster have slashed Southend’s funding by £11m. Curiously, Southend Tories haven’t mentioned this,
The part which really sticks in the craw is this:
“Southend Conservatives would freeze Council Tax for hard working local families in tough economic times.“
Never mind how Southend Conservatives would decide which families are hard working and which aren’t, this isn’t even true. The council’s Medium Term Financial Plan (a phrase every bit as sexy as a “long term economic plan”, differentiated only by it actually existing), which was written by the last Conservative administration, says:
“Council Tax – the increase is assumed to be 1.5% each year from 2015/16…“
So far from planning to freeze council tax, the Tories were planning to raise council tax. By 1.5%. As written in an official, published document. I would love to know how they rationalise this as not being an outright lie.
So what does the difference between the Conservatives’ and the joint administration’s plans amount to? £4 per year for a band D property. Yep, the new administration will charge the average household an extra £24 a year. The Conservatives would have charged £20 more each year.
With that money, the joint administration have saved Priory House care home from closure. They have retained paid staff in every library. They have kept every remaining children’s centre open. These are all things which the Conservatives still oppose. So their extra £20 a year was going to fund…what, exactly?
Nobody wants to raise council tax. But for years the Conservatives were merrily hacking away at vital services which residents used and valued. This is why they were rejected at the ballot box, why they didn’t win a single council seat in Rochford & Southend East last year — the voters wanted a different approach.
If the Tories have any interest in winning back the trust of the people of Southend, it is high time they started listening to them.