Tameside Conservatives Budget Response to Tameside Labour’s 3.99% Council Tax Increase

On 23rd February, Tameside Council (controlled by the Labour Party) increased Council Tax by an inflation busting 3.99%. Your local Conservative councillors OPPOSED Labour’s Council Tax increase with an alternative motion. All Labour Councillors in Tameside voted down the Conservatives plan to save money and protect frontline services, and instead voted for Labour’s 3.99% Council Tax increase – the highest in Greater Manchester.

Councillor Dr. Paul Buckley for Ashton Hurst gave a passionate defence of the taxpayers of Tameside, which was met with jeers from the Labour Party. You can read his speech below.

"I rise tonight to make an amendment to the recommendations, namely: “This Council supports a 2% increase in Council Tax to support Adult Social Care, however, it agrees with the Conservative Group that the Council has adequate reserves and balances that negates any need for a higher rise than the 2%, which would be greater than the wage increase that many local workers in Tameside will receive this year".

Last year Tameside Labour was the only Council to increase Council Tax across the whole of Greater Manchester. This year they have proposed a second year of tax rises for the hardworking residents of this Borough. If Wigan and Trafford, two Councils under differing political control, are able to levy no increase, apart from the rise for Adult Social Care, then we have to question what has happened in Tameside under Labour.

A year-on-year increase – but what do we see for these rises? Health outcomes in the Borough are some of the lowest in the country – in fact, we are the most at risk of heart disease in the whole of the UK. Children may be attaining higher standards in education thanks to the hard work of teachers, but more of our secondary school pupils are in schools that require improvement or are inadequate, than are in good or outstanding schools. We have seen libraries shut and there is threat to close three swimming pools in the Borough. Who knows what is next!

The fact is Tameside Labour is delivering less to the people of Tameside for ever higher Council Tax. This is a ‘Less Services for More Money’ budget.

I have already mentioned Trafford Council. So, let’s see how a Conservative-run Council does things. Last week they voted through a budget that froze Council Tax for a record sixth successive year. That’s right – SIX years! 

By encouraging growth in housing and businesses in the Borough, maximising income from services and generating income from assets, they have raised a record £10.3m in income generation. Along with efficiencies, that accounts for over two-thirds of the savings they have had to make. On top of that they have been able to afford significant investment in frontline services – an additional £3.1m for supporting vulnerable adults and children, £2.4m to introduce the new Living Wage and nearly £100,000 for youth centres.

And Trafford residents reap the rewards. Trafford Council has received the only Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ rating for children leaving care in the country. They have developed innovative proposals to establish a Youth Trust to safeguard youth provision. And they have achieved one of the highest inspection ratings in the UK from HMI Probation for its Youth Offending Services.

Educational standards are much higher too – Trafford has 92% of its secondary school pupils in Outstanding or Good schools (in Tameside it is less than half), and is sixth of all LEAs in the country for primary school pupils. If Trafford Conservatives can do it, why can’t we?

Nationally, the Conservatives inherited from Labour a deficit of over £170bn in 2010. That’s right – we were spending a massive £170bn more each year than we were raising in taxes. I think Labour forget this when they complain of cuts. In Government we have made the tough choices to make cuts, but to also protect the budget of important services, like schools, and increase it for others, like the NHS and defence. We make no apologies for that.

We’re more than half way there, but we have still increased spending on the NHS, on defence, on International Development. Introduced the triple-lock pension’s guarantee. And introduced a new National Living Wage for all workers – coming into force in a little over a month’s time that will benefit thousands of workers across this borough.

These are Conservative budgets – tough, but fair on the most vulnerable in society. Although we agree with the extra 2% increase for Adult Social Care, as we recognise the strain on adult services across the country, we have great concerns over the extra rises proposed in this budget. The extra 1.99% rise tonight in the Council Tax by Labour will hit hard working families in Tameside right in their pocket. Labour ignore their plight locally in the same way they ignore the budget deficit nationally.

They talk as if there is no problem. Jeremy Corbyn even has Zoe Williams advising him on economic matters. The same Zoe Williams who at last year’s Labour Party conference said, and I quote, “Of course there is a money tree, it’s called the Bank of England.”

Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has announced plans to scrap the spending cuts and tax reliefs. Fortunately, the decision of the public last year at the General Election was clear – a Conservative Government enacting the necessary cuts to bring the budget back under control. I think Labour Councillors in this chamber forget that their party lost the last election.

Labour’s £33.5bn of extra spending each year is unaffordable and would result, in the longer term, in even greater cuts. Cllr. Quinn tonight has praised the last Labour government for ‘finding the money’ to pay for services. But they didn’t find the money – they borrowed £170bn a year! The Conservatives’ handling of the economy has meant that more people are in a job than ever before in this country and unemployment is at a 10 year low. The fall in those out of work is greatest in the areas covered by the Northern Powerhouse, including Greater Manchester.

With the inception of Devo Manc and the elections for a Mayor for Greater Manchester next year we will see significant powers and money flowing away from the centre and back here, for decisions to be made locally.

However, Tameside Labour not only duck the difficult decisions, but the easy ones too. As I am sure you are all down in the dumps hearing how well the Conservatives are doing in Trafford, let’s also look at a good decision by a Labour-run Council, shall we?

Knowsley in Merseyside has cut the number of councillors by almost a third, saving around a quarter of a million pounds a year. That’s £250,000 each and every year for the services people care about. If Knowsley Labour can do it, why can’t we?

By adopting Conservative proposals to cut a third of councillors, have all-out elections every four years and reduce councillor’s allowances by 10%, we can make even greater savings that will help protect services, keep open swimming baths, save libraries, look after our older people and fill potholes.

But Labour have ducked this decision again and again. They’d rather impose a higher Council Tax and cut services. Less services for more money. I wonder how you will defend cutting services rather than councillors on the doorsteps in the elections. Cllr. Middleton has already said he finds it very difficult and after tonight it will become an even harder sell.

Cllr. Quinn says three-quarters of local residents support a Council Tax increase of an average of 12%. So why doesn’t he propose a 12% increase tonight and have a referendum on it and ask local residents what they really think?

There are sufficient funds for this Council tonight to vote for a freeze in Council Tax, but are still imposing a rise. It is not fair on the hard working people of Tameside and if Labour councillors really cared about the least well-off in society, they would have supported the Conservatives' amendment tonight.