Will your Council Tax really be frozen next year...?
An item on the Eastleigh Borough Council website has been misleading visitors into thinking that next years Council Tax is frozen when it isn’t, yet…
Nicely illustrating how things are decided behind the scenes at Eastleigh Borough Council, before they reach the Full Cabinet meeting where the decision is supposedly taken, is an announcement in the news section on the Home page of the EBC website which reads “Council Tax frozen”.
Many visitors to the website will probably not click on the link, will not read the story, will not see the important qualifications to the headline and will leave with the misunderstanding that Council Tax is now frozen.
But click on the link and you will get a very different story, with some important qualifications;
The announcement, which we’ve also seen separately in a Press Release from Eastleigh Borough Council, reads;
Eastleigh Borough Council is set to confirm that it will be freezing its Council Tax for the next two years as part of its medium term budget strategy at its Cabinet meeting on 18 July.
Following a Government initiative to reduce the financial burden on Council Tax payers it was recommended that all councils should set a 0% increase in Council tax as a result the Council tax increase for the borough council was set at zero for 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14.
If approved, it will mean that the Council will have frozen its Council Tax for five years in a row from 2011-12 through to 2015-16 and also that residents will have had twelve years in a row of council tax being reduced in real terms.
The Council’s medium term budget strategy is produced annually and provides a projection of the Council’s revenue over a five year period. It also shows that the Council will achieve its efficiency targets with around £2million of efficiency savings.
Council Leader Keith House said;
”Given the tough financial time being had by many of our residents we will be freezing our Council Tax for another two years until 2016.
“This will give Eastleigh Borough residents a total of five years of zero increase in their Council tax and twelve years in a row of council tax being reduced in real terms – and this has been achieved without reductions in frontline services.”
From the opening few paragraphs and particularly phrases such as “set to be frozen” and ”if approved”, it is clear that although the headline claims Council Tax has been frozen, the decision has been taken behind the scenes and has still to be put before Full Cabinet. They could still decide otherwise, though clearly it would be politically unwise for the Lib Dems to go against this Government initiative.
The EBC announcement also indicates that the showpiece formality of the Full Cabinet meeting, with all the time & expenses that are incurred out of our Council Tax, will effectively be considering a decision that has already been taken behind the scenes, another fait-accomplis : albeit a popular one this time [n.b. unlike the Local Plan - Ed].
Of course if the Full Cabinet were to decide otherwise tomorrow, 18th July, the announcement would remain in the archive on the Borough Council’s website and the misleading headline would continue to not do the Borough Council’s reputation or the Lib Dems popularity any harm….
This latest development on Council Tax has continued a trend which we’ve observed over the last few months, for Eastleigh Borough Council and the Lib Dems to actively mislead residents about Council Tax.
As Eastleigh News reported earlier in the year, although Eastleigh Borough Council claimed that the Borough component of our Council Tax was frozen for the current 2013/14 Financial Year, many [n.b. though not all - Ed] householders in the Borough received a bill which showed that the Eastleigh Borough Council component had actually increased. Despite all the claims, many householders around the Borough have had to pay more to the Borough Council this year…
As the Council Tax freeze was one of the fundamental points of the Lib Dems by-election campaign, we realised a few weeks later that Eastleigh’s new MP, Lib Dem Cllr Mike Thornton was elected on a false promise…
That situation did eventually draw a limited apology from the Chief Finance Officer at Eastleigh Borough Council, but not from the Lib Dems who continued to campaign on the mythical Council tax freeze during the Hampshire County Council elections.
Eastleigh News have asked the Borough Council whether the Council have learned from that fiasco and whether they could now guarantee that a similar situation would not arise in 2014/15.
Update: We have now received a reply, from a ‘Council Spokesperson’, which reads;
“If approved by members, the overall Council Tax for 2014/15 across the borough will be frozen as it was this year. Special expenses take account of different service levels in town and parish areas and these will be adjusted to reflect the actual levels of service provided in those areas. Special expenses can go up and down and therefore, as last year, some residents could see an increase or decrease in their Council Tax bills but the overall Council Tax for the Borough will be frozen.”
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