The Council Bubble

Over the past few blogs I have written about Council tax, referendums, surveys and the future role of residents in Suffolk in the county council’s decision making processes from a panel of residents to discuss policies with, to pilots of participatory budgeting. But for now the focus for the next few weeks at the county council will be on the budget setting process, across the country councils have huge financial pressures as centre government requires local government to make savings yet rightly charges with protecting and deliver front line services. On the one hand they want us to absorb the cuts but not put up the Council tax and have provided a 1% grant incentive to resist the urge to increase council tax, but any increase loses this incentive so say in the case of Essex you are proposing a county council tax rise of 1.49% you will only get 0.49% extra as you lose the government 1% incentive grant, which they argue is necessary to protect services.

So there are many masters in all this, residents, government, inflationary pressures, strange grant formulas not to mention property prices which effects the base council tax take as an area such as Kensington and Chelsea where almost all property will be in the highest band thus much higher Council tax payments are collected, set against somewhere such as Suffolk which is much closer to the average with many properties in band D.

But for me, putting all these argument aside, there is something fundamental in the argument about the state, of big government, set against protecting people hard earned money and individual choice. In my opinion local government is here to efficiently deliver services and to make sure that the most vulnerable in our community are protected for the least charge possible.

In Suffolk this means to achieve our county 0% increase promise and our commitment to absorb government grant reductions. There, of course, will be cuts to some services but others will be reshaped and despite what the opposition will try to sling mud at over the coming weeks, the fundamental focus of the Conservatives at the County Council day in day out is how to protect services for the most vulnerable in our community,  in short protecting these services from cuts is the very essence of why we do what we do.

Equally and beyond these fundamental decisions we take, I am extremely mindful that frankly , when you step outside of the council world bubble, for there is one, when you think about people sitting at their kitchen table trying to balance their own budgets and pay rising bills for fuel, heating, and food, people who for the most part don’t consider the council as an integral part of their lives, but they are working hard and for the moment are often struggling to pay these bills, I simply don’t believe if asked to cast a vote, they would support paying more Council tax.

Now that may change, and various commentators ponder this question and over time putting aside the necessary savings government is requiring local government to make, inflation does bite and will continue to bite thus making even our position today irrespective of savings, somewhat unsustainable over the longer term. So perhaps in future surveys, panels and participatory budget session we need to test these theories to see if public opinion over time shifts. In the meantime, we honour our manifesto commitment which we were elected on, not to increase the county council tax for the whole of this current council term but like others I watch with interest for the first Council brave enough to actually go to referendum and to hearing what the people say.

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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