I know I am not the only Member of this House to be slightly bemused by Labour’s apparent sudden concern over tax rises, given its own record. We have already heard about how Labour’s tax plans would hit the pockets of working families with its so-called progressive property tax, which would cost the average household an additional £374 a year, as well as its plans to abolish single person discounts and referendums on high tax rises. But this is not just about future policies; we can also see it from Labour’s own record, especially in London, where my neighbouring borough of Croydon has been led into bankruptcy and my Carshalton and Wallington residents have been punished by a 20.3% rise in the Mayor of London’s share of the council tax since 2016, despite his manifesto promise to keep his share of council tax as low as possible. Now the Mayor wants to raise his share of council tax in London by a further 10%, punishing Londoners for his poor financial management at City Hall.
It is not just Labour that would hit working families with tax rises. We have already heard that Conservative councils charge, on average, £84 a year less in council tax, but the Lib Dems charge more than £132 a year more than Conservative councils. Such an example can be found in my own council, the London Borough of Sutton, where the Lib Dems have joined with the Mayor’s council tax rise for local residents, having raised council tax in the borough by nearly 14% since 2017-18, according to London Councils. The London Borough of Sutton is one of only 23 councils across all the 393 local authorities that is classified as having very high rates of council tax, according to the website Property Data.
The reason often spouted by Labour and Lib Dem councils for their increases is that they do not get enough support, but these tax rises were happening long before the pandemic, and it is clear that this Government have given an unprecedented level of support to local authorities during the pandemic. Over £95 million has been given to Sutton in 2020-21, and so supportive has this finance been that the borough’s finance director said at a council meeting last week that the council was in as good a financial position as it was before the pandemic, thanks to a good level of support from central Government. I suspect that the Lib Dems will never forgive him for saying something so positive.
Residents do not have to settle for councils that waste money and impose higher taxes. We have heard that Conservative-run councils and Conservative Mayors offer better services while charging less council tax. Recovering from the covid pandemic is going to be hard, so more than ever we need Conservative councils and Mayors who are up for the challenge and who are innovative and careful with taxpayers’ money, rather than the high tax and wasteful spending mantra of the Opposition.