Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Council tax referendums

The Tories are proposing that if a council wants to increase council tax by more than some threshold rate, it will have to have a referendum. Using my new iCrystalBall, I’ve been able to see how councillors will react to this system…

Cllr Smith: We want to raise council tax from £1000 to £1050, but if we go over £1040 we’ll have to have a referendum, which we might lose. Then we’ll have to knock £10 off next year’s bill as a rebate.

Cllr Jones: OK, let’s go ahead with £1050 and then if we lose the vote, we can just make next year’s rise £10 more than we would have done. That’ll cancel out the rebate.

Cllr Smith: You mean make next year’s £1110 rather than the £1100 we’d probably have gone for? But then we’ll have to have another referendum, which again we’ll risk losing.

Cllr Jones: True enough, but in that case we can just keep rolling it over.

Cllr Smith: But won’t people realise and kick us out at the next council election?

Cllr Jones: Don’t be stupid. Regular democratic elections are no way of holding politicians to account. That’s why the Tories have made us more locally accountable by forcing this referendum rule on us: it’s so that there can be more local discretion over our decisions.

Cllr Smith: Hang on – weren’t we free to hold referendums anyway, over and above standing on a manifesto for election regularly?

Cllr Jones: Yes, but you can’t seriously think that this is the sort of thing that can be left to local discretion. Have you met us? We’re a bunch of lazy, useless halfwits concerned only with protecting our own fiefdoms and milking our publics. So, now we’re going to be told from Westminster how to make ourselves democratically accountable to the people who elect us anyway. I like to think of it as top-down localism.

Cllr Smith: What if we want to cut services so we can fund a tax cut bribe, though? Won’t we have to hold a referendum on that too?

Cllr Jones: Of course not. We can cut all we like, as tax and public spending are now officially bad. The new electoral law recognises this by insisting public votes be held based on this premise.

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