Tories backtrack on spending cuts with pledge to freeze council tax | Politics | The Observer
David Cameron's policy of slashing government spending was thrown into confusion last night after his party suddenly promised to spend more on annual grants to local authorities, allowing them to freeze council tax while maintaining local services.
The pledge contradicted statements in which the Tory leader has promised only to protect the budgets for health and international development from potentially drastic spending cuts in the first years of a Tory administration.
The commitment to increase one of the biggest areas of government spending came as the Tories faced pressure to explain how they could claim, credibly, to be able to freeze council tax for two years and maintain services.
When asked to explain how services would be maintained while bills were frozen, the Tories issued a statement saying that the overall amount of money to councils from central government would increase if they won power.
A Conservative spokeswoman issued an official statement, saying: "We will provide additional central funding to local councils to help deliver our council tax freeze policy."
It said the Tories would fund this in part by "cutting wasteful central government spending", such as fees for consultants, and by cutting back the tiers of unelected regional government.
The extra money to keep council taxes down would be permanent, it said. "The funding will continue after the end of the two-year freeze to avoid cliff-edge effects [sharp rises in the third year] for councils which have frozen their council tax. We will be making savings to the overall DCLG budget, for example, by cutting back the tiers of unelected regional government."
The communities secretary, John Denham, said the Tories were in chaos over their spending plans. He said Treasury figures revealed that the cost of the freeze had already soared to way above the £1bn estimated by the Tories, claiming that official costings by the Treasury showed it would cost £470m more than the Conservatives claimed.
Caroline Spelman, shadow secretary of state for communities and local government, said people could look forward to a better deal than under Labour: "Council tax has already doubled across the country under Gordon Brown, while frontline services like weekly bin collections have halved. Further tax rises and service cuts are on the way if Labour can cling to power.
"Conservatives will freeze council tax for two years across England and will scrap Labour's council tax revaluation. This will save households over £500 a year compared to Gordon Brown's tax-raising plans."
Brown is a proven commodity able to make tough decisions who saw the UK through the darkest economic hour since 1929. Not even the English can be this stupid.