OPINION - The Standard View: Justify council tax rises by results

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

The news that Londoners didn’t want to hear is that council tax is set to go up even more than we expected. That’s right: along with the increases in fuel and food bills, the amount of council tax going to City Hall is set for a hefty increase, by up to £40 a year on average.

It’s all to do with the City Hall precept, that is, the sum that the Mayor’s office takes, over and above the normal services provided by local authorities. That goes chiefly to police, the fire brigade and Transport for London: all essential services that need extra funding to deal with the challenges they face. It’s not wholly surprising, given the increase in inflation and wage costs, but it sits uneasily with the Mayor’s indignation at the cost-of-living crisis affecting Londoners.

The Government has allowed local authorities to increase council tax in their own right by almost three per cent to cover increased costs and indeed they have been warned they will get less funding from central government — that is, the taxpayer — if they do not make the most of that option. So the Mayor, along with local authorities, has been put in a difficult position. Some elements of spending may have to be reassessed.

Nevertheless, Londoners will want to see something in return for this hefty increase in bills. They will want transparency about how the money is to be spent, and they want to see results from that expenditure. Simple as that.

Stop & search has role

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Mark Rowley has, in a speech, addressed one of the most contentious elements of London policing: stop and search.

He has defended the use of the tactic in areas worst hit by knife crime where, he says, research shows it can cut attempted murders by as much as a half. “Our challenge is to create better data to know the precise boundaries of these areas, so we can minimise proactive stops where they are not needed”. Certainly, the Met has done itself no favours in the past by the misapplication of stop and search.

This paper supports the proportionate intelligence-led use of stop-and-search in particular to cut the shameful number of teenagers being killed. But the Met must be clear and open about why and where the tactic is being used to avoid further alienating communities. It must also properly consult with communities particularly affected by knife crime. Sir Mark is right — properly managed stop and search can help save lives and police must make the case for it.

Clever Wandsworth

Who knew that Wandsworth had so many brainboxes? According to the 2021 census, 47 per cent of Londoners have higher level qualifications, but in the City (a special case) and in Wandsworth the figure is 74 and 63 per cent respectively.

Wandsworth may lack good transport but it does boast good schools. The moral for the Government is that London shouldn’t be levelled down, but the country should emulate London. Where Wandsworth leads, Britain can follow.