Labour-run Southwark Council have announced they will increase council tax by 3% this year. This is the second year in a row they have done so. This is the maximum amount they are legally allowed to increase council tax, without triggering a local referendum. These increases are larger than inflation and average pay rises and will therefore mean Southwark residents will be poorer year-on-year.
The tax rise comes as the council has faced louder criticism of its spending habits and priorities, with large grants to multi-million pound arts institution and increased benefits to councilors especially coming under fire. At the same time, other councils have achieved a much better record of Council Tax collection rate. In the London Borough of Sutton, 99% of those who should pay Council Tax do so, enabling tax rates to be kept down for everyone.
Speaking about the increases, Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition on Southwark Council said ‘People in Southwark are finding money is tight, and have done so for several years. The Labour administration has always found the money for its own pet projects over the years, such as giving a million pounds to the Tate and increasing their own councillor allowances. These are the wrong priorities.
‘The council could choose to make reasonable savings in administrative costs and refusing to make expensive and unnecessary gestures. We have identified lots of areas where costs can be shaved off. Instead, it has taken the lazy option of ramping up council tax to the max on an annual basis.
‘It could decide to copy other councils, like Liberal Democrat-run Sutton, and clamp down on council tax evasion. Liberal Democrat councillors will be proposing an alternative budget where we show that the council has other choices and does not have to put up council tax for residents who are already struggling.’