Paul Waugh has the scoop that all eight Labour councils in London will freeze council tax from next April. The councils worked with Communities Secretary John Denham, who emphasised that 2010-2011’s increase in the central grant means that tax rises are unacceptable. As Waugh puts it, the “low-tax era seems finally to have begun”.
This is very early to announce rate levels and represents a pre-election skirmish, suggesting that Labour will campaign on the issue of maintaining low council taxes nationwide. Labour face annihilation in the capital, so freezing unpopular rises whilst not embracing equally unpopular cuts is politically smart. Although it will be interesting to see if Tory councils that are committed to cutting rates respond, Labour’s strategy is intended to destabilise the Liberal Democrats, who have taxed until the pips squeaked, especially in Richmond. There is a sense that this prolonged election campaigned is really about deciding which party will finish third.