Scary times ahead for council tax

BE AFRAID. Be very afraid!I'm not referring to bird flu - but to your council tax bills that will be set in four months's time.And don't expect anything extra for your money - in fact expect to see services cut at the same time.

BE AFRAID. Be very afraid!

I'm not referring to bird flu - but to your council tax bills that will be set in four months' time.

And don't expect anything extra for your money - in fact expect to see services cut at the same time.

Apparently that was the underlying message in one of the most impenetrable press releases I've seen in a long time from the county council this week.

I can't say I'm surprised by the news that councils are about to get stuffed by the government. That always happens just after general elections.

For the next 18 months, the government doesn't really care what you think about it - Labour will probably lose seats in council elections but as central government is intent on taking more and more power from local authorities it can live with that.

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This state of affairs has nothing to do with the fact that we have a Labour government in power - the Tories were exactly the same when they were in control in Whitehall.

What is different, of course, is that this year for the first time since 1997 the administration at Suffolk County Council is a different party to the government in Whitehall.

That means that instead of trying to put a gloss on a bad situation, new county council leader Jeremy Pembroke is giving it to the government with both barrels.

I'm not sure that talking about “the worst settlement since 1975” is strictly accurate - but it makes a strong point.

It's clear that if things do go pear-shaped next year, the admininstration at Endeavour House isn't going to lie down and take the blame.

But if they do want to say “not me, guv,” then say it!

Don't send out a press release saying: “An outline framework for how Suffolk will be run over the next four years has been released by Suffolk County Council. The framework, which will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting at the end of the month, includes re-shaping services for the people of Suffolk to produce better results, improved value for money and increased openness. If it is agreed, the framework will form the basis for more detailed plans.”

And then going on to come up with a formula of meaningless soothing words which make motherhood and apple pie look like the Communist Manifesto!

We're big boys and girls in Suffolk. We can understand what you mean if you tell us you're going to charge us more and give us less.

Of course that doesn't mean we'll like it - or will take it lying down!

I WAS speaking to a senior Labour figure in Ipswich the other day who was following the Conservative leadership campaign with a keen interest.

He admitted he hadn't been interested in the last two contests: “Whoever won them, I knew they'd never stand a chance at the next general election,” he said.

But this time things were different. “I'm just hoping the Tories don't vote for Cameron,” he said. “He really frightens me!”

I asked him what was so worrying about the apparently likeable Tory boy.

“He's the only one who doesn't frighten the voters!” he explained.

It's a view that is mirrored by some senior Tories in the town. One senior Conservative told me: “I'll be voting for Cameron and I really hope he wins.

“But I know many other Conservatives in the town will vote differently because they are basically right-wingers who want someone who mirrors their own views.

“If Cameron doesn't win then the party won't do any better in the next general election than it did this time - and we really could see ourselves overtaken by the Liberals.”

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