Freeze on freezes?

THERE’S a school of thought right now which says you can’t win a council election in Camden without freezing local taxes. In the race for votes, nobody can stick their necks out and say: We have to raise it a smidgeon to ensure public services remain properly funded.

With inflation, a freeze in council tax, you could actually, argue is a cut: great for the pockets of residents, not so great for people trying to balance the books at the Town Hall. The Conservatives in Camden say residents should thank them for lesser demands, that it’s ‘a matter of historical fact’ that council tax freezes in Camden have been posted in three of the last four years because of their input into the Lib Dem/Tory coalition running Camden Town Hall.

Yet, what would happen if the Camden Tories were to ask one one of the Conservative Party’s own esteemed economic advisers what they should do in the future? They wouldn’t have to go far. Sir Alan Budd, said to be resident in “the posher end of Kentish Town”, was quoted in yesterday’s Observer as saying a raise in tax was inevitable to keep pace with vital public spending.

“You can’t keep the same level of services, publicly funded, as are currently running. It’s easy to say ‘get rid of waste’,” said Sir Alan. “Everybody will get rid of waste, but in the end people notice that there aren’t the services they previously had.”

So that’s the national picture from an expert who sat on the Bank of England’s Monetary Committee. But will that way of thinking cascade to local authorities like Camden? And if so, are the days of council tax freezes numbered?

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