Damian’s 2019 budget was a vain effort at mitigating the Conservative government’s austerity programme, which has hollowed out Havering’s services. His response was a moral disgrace.1 It attacked the vulnerable,2 the bereaved and charities. Havering’s finances are challenged by demand pressures from social services for the elderly and vulnerable children. Damian needs to ‘Think the Unthinkable’.
Damian’s the victim of an extremist government who squander money. Without even bothering to highlight Chris Grayling’s farcical failings,3 the catalogue of major abortive programmes is, seemingly, endless. HS2’s budget has been extended to £30 billion to reduce the journey time to Birmingham by 20 minutes. This makes Crossrail look cheap. Brexit is costed at £26 billion, which doesn’t look like value for money.
So Damian has to ‘Think the Unthinkable’ and call out the government. In 2017 Surrey’s council leader, David Hodge, did precisely that when he proposed a 15% Council Tax increase! The proposed increase was withdrawn, presumably after a sweetheart deal was done.4 Havering could do with a deal like that instead of repressive immoral attacks on the poor.
1 It was a moral disgrace because Damian chose not to increase Council Tax by the amount authorised by the government. The difference was made up by attacking the vulnerable and disabled. This attack was a choice by Damian to cause harm in order that he should have bragging rights in ‘keeping Council Tax low’.
2 Council tax arrears for 2018-9 was £4,743,189. To increase Council Tax by 67% for the vulnerable and 33.4% for the disabled could well mean that those arrears will increase for the year 2019-20. Piling debt and stress onto the vulnerable and disabled doesn’t appear to me to be a sound programme. Tax arrears information from Freedom of Information reply AIR 17906 C dated 25th June 2019
3 £500 million on the Probation Service changes was the most costly of his errors.
4 There were four Cabinet ministers with Surrey constituencies in 2017.
See https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/19/surrey-confirms-plans-to-raise-council-tax-by-15 and for the withdrawal see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-surrey-38895493