Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Questions for George

My brain hurts, and it’s not because of last night’s excellent beer and curry event courtesy of the RSPCA, or any imbibing at the Grauniad or CWF receptions.

I made one of my rare forays into the main conference hall this morning to hear George Osborne. Over halfway through the speech and there it was: this year’s “inheritance tax moment” … a two year freeze of council tax (then ominously in the next sentence, “for those councils who sign up”).

I like the sound of this, but it does raise many questions. How will the mechanics of the scheme work? Will the extra money necessary be added to the formula grant – if so, then Councils on the grant floor* may not see it. Where will the money come from in any case? Do we know whether cutting back consultants and advertising will free up enough cash? Will the “freeze” relate to the headline council tax, including precepts, or just the borough/district/county’s own portion of the council tax? What happens then if, say, my borough were to “sign up” but the GLA was not? What strings will come attached?

* Ah yes, the grant floor. You’ll hear a lot about this if you hang around certain councillors too long. The formula that is used to determine how much central government gives to councils, in an increasing number of cases, is leading to a figure that would mean a significant cut in funding, so the “grant floor” is the safety net – a guaranteed increase. In Bromley’s case, the difference is in double millions. Even then, the grant floor recently has been increasing by far less than inflation (just 1.75% next year).

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