Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council claim that they are not increasing any fees or charges above the inflation rate. The truth is in stark contrast to this claim.
The inflation rate is 0.5 per cent. Yet in Labour’s proposed budget there are 256 increases in fees and charges of 2.4 per cent. That is nearly five times the rate of inflation. I counted a further 126 proposed increases above 0.5 per cent.
When Labour were in opposition they use to call increases in charges “stealth taxes”. I think the validity of the definition rather depends on whether the Council is offering a service in a competitive market place or is charging for a licence with monopoly power. But anyway Labour decided all these charges were taxes and promised to cut “all Council Taxes”. They have broken their promise on an industrial scale.
They were even stealthy about their stealth tax hikes. They refused to publish the 2.4 per cent rises – I had to make a specific request for the information. Here is the full list. It’s not on the Council’s website. A rather unconventional approach to scrutiny and transparency. Still, at least it is now in the public domain.
Here are some of Labour’s “stealth taxes” – at nearly five times inflation:
- Charge for bedbugs treatment increased from £189 to £194. The Labour MP for Hammersmith Andrew Slaughter, with typical understatement, said that the Tories were in favour of bedbugs wishing to drive out the poor. Yet Labour have punished the poor by hiking the charge. The cost for removing cockroaches goes up from £129 to £132.
- Booking a room at the Assembly Hall at the Town Hall goes up from £335 to £343. Although Labour have yet to cough up the money they owe for their own meetings.
- What do Labour have against marriage and civil partnerships? Fees are hiked from £340 to £348.
- While claiming to support market traders on North End Road, Labour are pushing up their weekly fee for a stall from £83.64 to £85.60. With friends like these…
- Cafes are punished with an increase in the licence for having tables and chairs on the pavement going up from £659 to £675. Yet there is already a law dealing with obstruction which mean they are not allowed where the pavement is narrower then 1.8 metres.
- Competitive sport in school is penalised. The cost for holding a sports day in a park (for up to three hours) increases from £160 to £163.80. An hour of rounders goes up from £40 to £40.90.
- There is an attack on sport for adults too. The cost of booking a football pitch for a day goes up from £340 to £348. A game of cricket will cost £87 up from £85. Anyone for tennis? It is costing more under Labour. Up from £70 to £71.70 for ten one hour sessions.
- In opposition Labour made emotive attacks on burial charges. In power Labour are cranking them up. Grave maintenance up from £167 to £170.50. Use of the chapel per hour up from £92 to £94. Scattering of ashes? Up from £81 to £82.50.
The amounts raised from some of these increases will be modest – in comparison to Labour’s million pound raid on motorists wallets. But the council leader Cllr Stephen Cowan spent eight years in opposition standing up in the town hall denouncing these charges for being too high and promising to cut them. For him to have promptly pushed them up by five times the inflation rate shows some chutzpah even by his standards.
Thanks for getting this depressing information out into the public domain. Labour’s election message in Hammersmith and Fulham was all about ‘another way of doing things’. The reality has been a token cut in council tax, a token reduction in debt, and a swathe of offsetting charges and levies increased well above the inflation rate for the foreseeable future. Nothing more than a pointless rearrangement of the financial deckchairs in place of the transformative progress I have witnessed during the previous four years.