Letter to Editor: Harlow Council budget: This was a massive own goal for Labour

Politics / Sat 24th Feb 2024 at 08:23am

Dear Editor,

AS an independent observer, for many, many years, of local politics in Harlow, I am not surprised by the “extraordinary scenes” at the Full Council Budget meeting, but I am disappointed.

I am not fooled by the Conservative’s Council Tax freeze, any more than I am Mayor Khan’s “Tube fares frozen until 2025” because the reality is, at the end of the day, someone must pay and invariably it’s those least able to pay who bear the brunt.

With all council seats up for grabs in May, the local Labour Party had a perfect opportunity to present itself as a Council-in-waiting that was prepared for the challenge of taking over the responsibility of all Harlow’s citizens.

Instead, they demonstrated contempt that is almost insulting with their “can’t be bothered” failed attempt at gamesmanship. A massive own goal for Labour.

It really is hard to fathom what the Labour Party thought they were doing and what if any conversations they had had with the Section 151 Officer about their proposed antics prior to the Budget meeting.

One might question whether there was a lack of ability on the Labour Group to step up to the task and the challenge, or they couldn’t agree among themselves, or they just didn’t have the courage. Whichever way you cut it it’s not good enough.

Why courage? Well, I suspect that a future-proofed Labour Budget would have meant council tax increases. By “future-proofed” I mean a budget that doesn’t defer paying the price, in a big way, at some point in the future. Labour could have done this and presented it as “honest”, however unpalatable.

Labour says it is offering “An administration that will get the basics right “. Honesty and integrity are a good place to start, and they showed neither at this Budget meeting. Instead, they have ended up just looking incompetent and they have given the Tories the “Labour has shown it has no alternative” headline to run with for the rest of this crucial political year.

Disappointed but not completely surprised.

Son of Old Man River

(Name and address supplied)

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11 Comments for Letter to Editor: Harlow Council budget: This was a massive own goal for Labour:

Dan Swords
2024-02-24 08:56:55

The central theme of this is spot on, but on the assertion about council tax freeze being a gimmick it is totally wrong. The reason we can freeze council tax is because we have a significant amount of other revenue (apart from council tax) now coming in - such as the revenue from the Harvey Centre. A council tax increase would raise £160,000 this year. The Harvey Centre revenue is £1 million this year. That is why we can freeze council tax. On the point about the most vulnerable paying, again this is entirely wrong. The Harlow Conservatives put forward a council tax support scheme to support 6,000 of the most vulnerable residents with their council tax bills - up to 76% discount for vulnerable residents and 100% discount for vulnerable pensioners. Harlow Labour voted against the council tax support scheme and put no alternative as such, to have no council tax support scheme meaning 6,000 of the most vulnerable residents in Harlow would have access to no support. You can see this in item 10 of the council agenda.

2024-02-24 09:22:10

Dan if Labour didn't put in an alternative then they have surely supported the Council tax support scheme. What seems to be lost is tax is good, especially when levied on those that have the profits or income sufficient to pay. The philosophy that says low tax and that market forces will take care of it has crashed the nhs, utilities, transport, the environment, education and the country generally for most people.

James Leppard
2024-02-24 09:35:33

Nostradamus, I will resist the temptation to discuss the philosophical aspects of taxation, interesting as it certainly is. I will confine myself to the first assertion regarding Labour support for the Council Tax Support scheme. This is item 10 d) of the Council Agenda. It was subject to a separate, specific vote. Each Councillor is required to declare verbally: For, Against or Abstain and each vote is duly recorded by the Monitoring Officer. All 11 Labour members voted expressly against. 14 Conservatives voted For the motion and the Chair of the Council abstained. So clearly Labour did not support and actually vote to scrap the Council Support scheme for up to 6,000 of the most vulnerable residents. Astounding behaviour.

2024-02-24 10:30:43

What we have here is Chris Vince playing party politics and directing his puppets to do the same regardless of the impact on Harlow residents, this isn't the first time he's done this, remember the problems he caused when the Conservatives proposed changing elections to every 4 years thus saving Harlow residents money, Seems like Chris has his sights set on one goal and it's certainly not Harlow Residents.

2024-02-24 11:34:35

Chris Vince Target: MP = salary £86 k plus loads of expenses, free first class travel, free London pad, subsidised gourmet meals and bar! Cushy number just voting as told!

2024-02-24 19:40:55

It wasn't just a Labour own goal, it was the equivalent of a own goal in the World Cup final . Chris Vince do yourself a favour , get out of politics , your embarrassing.

2024-02-25 08:14:39

It is interesting that with a suitable business approach the council owning rentable commercial such as shops and business centres can revenue generate as we as self support to avoid the need to burden the residents while providing value rates for business owners and benefits to residents a demonstration of how public and private sector can work hand in hand if correctly managed .. in contrast other councils taking the short quick fix of selling assets for quick wins doesn't provide value in the long run. Hopefully the upward trend and regeneration can continue!

Guy Flegman
2024-02-25 18:23:42

Please remember that income through taxation is consistent. Income through business ventures are more erratic.

David Forman
2024-02-26 00:26:51

An embarrassing display from Labour which I witnessed first-hand. Labour's amateurish performance is a result of a failure to do proper research on the reports pack prepared by officers. The Section 151 would have been happy to assist, as has happened in the past over decades, the Labour Group to prepare an alternative budget. Had you, like I did, watched the Cabinet meeting the week before you would have noticed Chris Vince furiously scribbling away questions at the start of the meeting while members of the public and councillors were asking questions. I believe he remembers what other councillors have said at the Group meeting and that gives him the ideas for questions. That saves a lot of preparation and more time to become our next MP.

Tom Compton
2024-02-26 09:30:35

A pretty caustic but accurate observation by David Forman. Chris Vince is Leader of the Opposition, Shadow for Finance and Labour Parliamentary candidate. He clearly is focusing solely on the latter to the detriment of Harlow residents. Harlow Labour highlighted that they have no grasp of the Council's finances. Their sole plan is to TAX AND WASTE MONEY as they did repeatedly during their 10 years in administration.

Bye Bye Tories
2024-03-04 14:36:17

No Harlow Labour alternative budget this, no Harlow Labour alternative budget that. How many times are these tories going to repeat that before they wake up and realise the scary truth that Harlow residents and most of the country would rather no plan than their plans… at this rate, they would lose to a man dressed up as a bin representing the looney party, Harlow and the UK have had enough, your time is ticking.

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