I am almost half way through my third term as a Councillor.
During my first term (2002 to 2006) there was a Labour administration. Between 2006 & 2010, my group (the Conservatives) were part of a coalition with the Community Group. We currently have a Labour administration.
When I first became Leader of the Conservative Group I said that when I agreed with a decision of the Council’s Labour Administration I would say so. I would also acknowledge that this Labour administration is not in any way close to being as bad as the one I observed in my first term. I hope that they would acknowledge that the way that things were done prior to 2006 is outdated and unsustainable. I also believe that the previous two years have demonstrated that they lost the long-standing argument over whether perpetual increases in Council Tax are fair. Conservatives in Hounslow have been vindicated in their fight for the long-suffering Council Tax payer.
However, there are two recent decisions that deserve exposure. Firstly, at the most recent Borough Council Meeting, the budget for 2012/13 was set. Labour proposed a freeze in the level of Council Tax and a significant increase in the level of Council reserves (money for a rainy day).
Amongst the increase in reserves was £2.2m income from the HMRC following a successful claim for VAT
reimbursement. We believe that this money should have been returned to residents in the form of a 2.2% reduction in the level of Council Tax and we proposed that on the night in the form of an amendment.
Labour have an outstanding promise of a Council Tax cut to be met. It will be interesting to see whether they ever deliver this and whether it will be funded by a use of reserves?
Secondly, on January 31, Labour changed the criteria for selecting the Mayor. This was a particularly partisan move as when the Conservatives were part of the administration the constitution was changed
to ensure that the selection of Mayor would not be confined to any one party. This was a terribly important change – supported at the time by all Groups, including Labour – as the Mayoralty is not meant to be a political position. It is quite disgraceful that Labour has reverted to type as I had hoped that they had moved on in this area.
Finally, I was an opponent of the Feltham and Heston MP, Seema Malhotra, at the by-election before Christmas. Since then she has made her maiden speech, which I thought was excellent. I wish her well as there is a lot of work to be done locally.