Labour-controlled boroughs vow council tax freeze

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Indy Politics

Labour-controlled London boroughs today vowed to freeze council tax next year as they sought to neutralise Tory promises to keep bills down.

All eight of the capital's Labour-run councils jointly announced the move following recent talks with Communities and Local Government Secretary John Denham.

Their pledge came as Tory leader David Cameron promised to work with town halls to freeze council tax bills for two years if he wins the next general election.

But Mr Denham claimed Tory councils had already indicated they would not keep to the pledge.

"Last time David Cameron tried this, his own councils said they wouldn't do it, and it's no different now," he said.

"This is a rehash of a failed policy. People need to know that it is Labour councils who deliver real savings, and Labour councils who will protect the services that people rely on."

But the Tories said their London councils already charged householders less than their Labour counterparts, while Gordon Brown had overseen huge rises in council tax in the past.

They claim Mr Brown, first as Chancellor then as Prime Minister, used it as a "stealth" tax, with increases since 1997 equivalent to 4p in the pound on the rate of income tax.

Shadow communities and local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Scotland has had a council tax freeze for the last two years.

"It's time for the same south of the border, and a Conservative government will work with councils to deliver a two-year council tax freeze.

"Conservative councils in London already charge the lowest rates of council tax."

The eight London authorities promising no rise in council tax for 2010/11 were Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Newham and Tower Hamlets.

They said the move would help Londoners cope with the impact of the recession and would be funded by making savings without hitting frontline services.

The new council tax year begins next April, when Mr Brown is considered most likely to call an election for the following month.