Uckfield town councillor and vice-chairman of Uckfield Labour Ben Cox shares concerns about Wealden Council’s proposal to freeze council tax in the year 2021-22.
In a letter to Uckfield News, after reading our story Wealden Council to consult on freezing its share of Council Tax, he says:
“Is freezing council tax a good idea or even a sensible one?
“With our councils on their knees for some time now before Covid-19 and the pound on its way down, can our councils afford to freeze tax?
“Over the past ten years we have seen services cut to the bone and our community struggle with the pressure of Tory austerity.
“Youth services and social services cut, with the by-product being higher levels of anti-social behaviour and less young people in work.
“If we have leant anything from the last ten years, it is that austerity doesn’t work.
“The pressures our councils are under: East Sussex County Council projecting a loss of £2 million, Uckfield Town Council projecting losses of £200k this year already, and Wealden District Council yet to project.
“For the reasons outlined above I was shocked to see councillor Bob Standley (Conservative) the leader of Wealden District Council say that for ideological reasons they want to freeze tax.
“But let’s look closer at where we are and what freezing would mean. It would mean cuts to services at the time when many people would be needing extra support, be that youth mental health services or aid with the on going pandemic.
“We will also see a lower tax yield as unemployment grows, putting higher pressure on our already under-pressure councils.
“The only way to balance the books after this foolish ideological stunt would be to cut to the bone and gutting out many services we all rely on.
“Who will end up paying? If we cut now for short term political gain then in long term the council will have a bigger bill.
“Having to bring back services costs more than keeping them going.
“We know year on year, costs go up because of inflation but this year is going to be even harder.
“We are only half way through Covid-19 and the long term effect on our community isn’t clear. But we also have Brexit within a month.
“We know that we have a economic downturn estimated for the short to medium term. This will see pressure on councils long after the pandemic. Saving £5 now will mean a higher increase of tax in the future. Like I said a short term political gain with a long term cost.
“Tax doesn’t and shouldn’t be seen as a dirty word, but people need to see where the money is spent and why.
“To freeze tax now would be to freeze the opportunity of many in our community and also put our council at risk of financial hardship in the future. To freeze now is reckless and foolish. The Conservative party needs to put the community before ideology.
“The action to freeze tax goes against the officers’ recommendations, and is the wrong move in a pandemic.”