LOCAL POLITICS: Grant would have meant a tax freeze

County Hall, Morpeth.'REF 2008145303
County Hall, Morpeth.'REF 2008145303

Recently I wrote about the budget of Northumberland County Council’s administration which is Labour controlled.

It has now been confirmed that there will be an increase in our council tax. It is set to rise by 1.99 per cent for the 2015/16 financial year.

With government cuts, the Labour administration should have jumped at the chance to receive a grant that would have meant no increase in council tax, but instead they played ‘party politics’ by refusing the grant and describing it as a ‘bribe’ in one of the local papers.

At every budget meeting of Northumberland County Council from 2008 to May 2013, the Labour Group, Conservative and Independents Group (CIG) and the Independent Group easily outnumbered and could have tactically outvoted the Liberal Democrat minority administration’s proposals to freeze council tax for three years in a row.

Did the opposition groups at the time decide to outvote tactically? No they didn’t.

Could it therefore be argued that at the time and on face value it was thought that freezing council tax was good for local people and the economy in Northumberland.

Labour continually bang on about the ‘cost of living’ crisis but one thing that NCC has within its power is to set council tax and the Labour administration chose to increase it again this year.

During the budgeting process, it is good to see that at least one of the opposition groups raised the following criticism: (Labour are) asking the people of Northumberland for more money when there’s no need for it, because accepting the government grant would have meant no rise in council tax for 2015/16 financial year.

The Conservative Group leader has described the Labour administration as ‘cloak and dagger’ but was reported to have said in the Morpeth Herald (March 5): “The capital project included some sensible investment.”

I wonder what investments are being made with a pan-Northumberland focus, or is the north and urban Northumberland divide being widened.

Though the Labour administration has shown a trend to increase council tax in Northumberland over the past few years, this is not in tune with the national trend.

In a recent report carried out by the Independent on Sunday, across the country and out of those councils that plan to increase their council tax for the upcoming financial year, almost 80 per cent are Conservative lead.

It is a shame that here in Northumberland, we cannot be in tune with the 55 per cent majority of councils that will freeze their council tax by accepting the government grant equivalent to a one per cent rise.

Susan Bell,