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News and Comment March 2012

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4 March - Unfortunately it isn’t true

Newspaper cuttingThe first paragraph of this newspaper cutting comes from the Bexleyheath Chronicle, the final two lines are from the News Shopper. Nothing you read there is absolutely true.

Since Linda Piper disappeared from the scene last August newspaper reporters have not been a common sight at the Civic Centre. Presumably the papers rely on press releases and as we know Bexley council is not renowned for honesty. The council leadership did say that tax had been frozen for the third year in a row and that ours is the second lowest rate in Outer London… if only!

I accept that the intention was to freeze the tax two years ago but Gordon Brown scuppered that as indeed he messed up most things. One can understand Bexley council’s annoyance at having to raise an extra million pounds to fund the Freedom Pass in 2010 but their fault or not, the council tax went up. They shouldn’t claim otherwise. To be fair the council made that fact clear at the meeting but their press release evidently didn’t.

Rather more serious is the claim to have the second lowest average council tax. Average is the word on which everything hinges. Bexley is not an expensive area for housing so more of the housing stock may be in lower bands compared to many boroughs. The council is being careful, some may say clever, with its choice of words so as to cover the unwelcome facts.

Last year I compiled a league table of London council taxes and concerned that I may have made a mistake I asked someone to check the numbers - a tedious job so thanks are due - but it merely confirmed that Bexley is 12th on the Outer London list. If you were lucky enough to own a house worth (say) £150,000 pounds (20 years ago at the last valuation) in every one of London’s outer boroughs the fact remains, whatever council leader O’Neill may claim, eleven of those houses will enjoy lower taxes than the one in Bexley. Residents will judge the tax rate on what they have to pay, not some concocted formula to satisfy a politician’s need to delude the populace.

I’m not sure why they do it, bending the truth must be in their DNA. There is no real need to lie, Bexley council has in recent years, unlike too many of the last 25, done as well as any other. Not that that is necessarily good. I received an email this week from an employee about the dreadful waste that goes on his department.


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