When my phone pinged with a message from a colleague to say that Labour had selected council tax as the topic of Monday’s opposition day debate, I was shocked, but not entirely surprised.
Shocked, given the Labour Party’s eye watering record of blowing taxpayers’ cash, whilst raising taxes to meet the costs of successive failures.
I am not entirely surprised though at Labour's attempt at creating disingenuous headlines on the back of a non-binding vote - these Parliamentary tricks, where Labour tries to con the voters, we have come to expect.
Since the beginning of the first national lockdown in March last year, councils across the country have stepped up and supported communities, but understandably, this has left more with increasing financial pressures.
Yet, this pressure has been matched by support given by the Government. In Leeds, we’ve seen £528.68 million worth of Government funding for 2020/21, with £201.22 million passed to neighbouring Wakefield.
Nationally, there’s been an injection of over £10 billion of direct additional support for councils, with billions more to help alleviate financial pressures.
Councils may choose to increase council tax. But to be clear, this is the choice of local councils, with a clear ceiling set in order to avoid the ridiculous hikes we consistently saw within so many councils under the last Labour Government.
Local councils now have to call a local referendum if they wish to increase council tax by more than 2%, or the social care precept by more than 3%. That’s a Conservative Government standing side by side with local people, giving them greater influence over their own council tax bill than ever before.
But let’s be clear, it’s the financial mismanagement of Labour’s local councils that so often led to the outrageous hikes throughout the terms of their last Government.
Whether it’s £38 million on a failed energy project in Nottingham, £66 million in Croydon on ‘risky property investments and lax financial controls’, or £150,000 on a cycle lane in Southampton (only for it to be ripped up three months later), Labour’s reckless spending habits have left many worse off.
Hardworking families have paid the price, with council tax increasing by 109% between 1997- 1998 and 2010-2011 on an average band D property, costing families an additional £751 a year.
Yesterday, Labour thought they could land the ultimate blow. It failed. But Sir Keir does still have a window opportunity outstanding – and that’s to tackle the issue of Council Tax within his own council of Camden, who have chosen to hike up council tax by 22% since 2015-16, on the average band D property.
Given Labour’s record on council tax, it is surprising they chose to debate this, and a decision I imagine they’ve come to regret. But Labour’s rank political opportunism for a slice of political gain? I doubt we’ll be seeing the end of that anytime soon.