At least your County Council Tax bill will not be going up

Today Suffolk Council Council’s worst kept secret will be out at lunchtime as it publishes the papers for next week’s cabinet meeting. We Conservatives are proposing a 0% County Council Tax increase in the coming year’s budget fulfilling the first year of our 4 year commitment to a 0% County Council tax increase for the whole of the councils’ term.

Over the weekend on various blog sites such as www.conservativehome.com and in papers such as Saturday’s edition of The Times in their article on Eric Pickles considering a lowering of the council tax referendum cap to 1.5%, something I pondered in this blog last week, the debate rages. Another interesting line that is being debated is about grant formulas, the reliance of any one council on council tax or grants. Indeed as I have been about Suffolk taking part in our Biggest ever Budget Conversation roadshows there is no doubt that people are surprised when you show them that councils are not actually, for the moment, funded by Council Tax and business rates alone but that various grants make up a significant part of the funding.

Beyond this financial reality a more philosophical debate is also taking place about the legitimacy of representative democracy, i.e. Councillors v referendum. In response to the con home article about Kent’s proposed Council tax rise and the various comments started online by me and followed by many others, Cllr. Simmons from Kent made a number of interesting points in response, no least that 70% of those who responded to a survey were in favour of rises.

Clearly survey results are significantly cheaper to obtain than indulging in a referendum even if you could do a referendum on the back of the European elections, which would make it significantly cheaper than a standalone one. In Suffolk a standalone referendum would, we estimate, cost in the region of £750,000 and a 1% rise in Council tax would bring in some £2.4 million, so there is a considerable cost to running a referendum, whereas the recent Ipsos Mori survey cost in the region of £16,000.  There are of course those who say that is too much money but public participation is important and a part of that is polling and other ways to engage.

Polling of course takes the discussion down an interesting line about what is actually asked of people in any survey, highlighted by a survey in Sheffield about would people pay more Council tax and many said yes but the option to say no or they wanted a 0% rise or even lowering of the council tax was not offered. So as with all surveys are you seeking people opinion or simply trying to get the answer you want? Always the acid test.

Here is Suffolk as a part of Suffolk’s Big Budget Conversation in the Ipsos Mori survey we commissioned we did not ask that question as we are committed to 4 years of 0% increases but we were very careful and took advice from Mori to make sure the questions were designed in such a way as to try to get to the real opinion of the average resident in the county rather than support any one position.

The poll results form one of the appendix to the cabinet paper published today and has a link to the raw data, both of which have played their part in the shaping of this year’s budget proposals and are a part of the increasing and developing involvement and participation of residents in the decisions Suffolk County Council makes.

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Kerry Buist on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

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