Tax-payers ill-served by debate
HARD-pressed council tax payers in Suffolk are to face swingeing rises next month.But frankly the county councillors should hang their heads in shame – the debate which led to the increase was one of the most disgraceful I've ever seen at County Hall.
HARD-pressed council tax payers in Suffolk are to face swingeing rises next month.
But frankly the county councillors should hang their heads in shame – the debate which led to the increase was one of the most disgraceful I've ever seen at County Hall.
For a start the administration did nothing to justify the rise.
Budget spokesman David Rowe and all the other members of the executive just got up and parroted: "We don't want any cuts, we want to improve services!"
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There was no other attempt to justify the rise – no attempt to explain why, in a year when the government is switching money to other parts of the country, no one thought of having a standstill budget.
Frankly they treated the voters with contempt.
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Then we had the abysmal performance from the official opposition.
I couldn't decide whether their attempt to table an amendment on the day of the debate was monumental incompetence – or just them trying to be too clever by half (also involving a high level of incompetence).
Either they tried to table the amendment without reading standing orders – which says an amendment has to be tabled 24 hours in advance – or they knew about the standing orders but hoped the administration didn't.
The only way you can debate an amendment with no notice is if it is an emergency and the council gives you permission.
Given that we knew the council was going for a 18+ percentage rise on February 3, the opposition could hardly claim it was an emergency – and surely they realised that in that situation the administration would block their efforts.
They are adamant that they did get advice from the county solicitor before tabling the last minute, but I get the feeling they suspected they could be blocked.
Before the debate copies of leader Jeremy Pembroke's speech were circulated to the press saying: "To be used in the event of a debate on the Conservative amendment."
That wording suggests to me that they had a pretty good idea there wouldn't be a debate on it!
They were left tossing their heads and moaning: "I'm so ashamed to be a member of this council." So they should be!
And in trying to play silly games, the Tories actually missed a great opportunity to overturn the proposed rise.
Three Liberal Democrats voted against the rise. A fourth, Peter Howard, had spoken of his unhappiness – and a good argument could have brought him across.
That would have left the opposition only four votes shy of the administration – strong arguments may have brought another three Lib Dems across.
But in the event the Tories, by trying to be a bit too clever, lost the chance to put their arguments – and the council tax payers of Suffolk are stuck with an unnecessarily high council tax bill.