Complaint Lodged Over Merton Council Tax Poster

Tories accuse Labour of promoting their agenda

Merton's Conservative councillors have lodged a formal complaint over Labour's decision to spend tax payers' money on a council tax poster campaign in the run up to the election.

Councillor Oonagh Moulton, Merton's Tory leader, says while the posters (pictured right in South Wimbledon) take credit for the council tax freeze in Merton it fails to mention that it was funded by the Government through the Council Tax Freeze Grant.

But Labour Councillor Mark Allison, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, said the poster campaign actually only cost £637.

Councillor Moulton said: "This is a blatant abuse of tax payers' money. In their recent Budget, Labour ring-fenced the council's communications budget. Now we know why!

"Residents will want to know why their hard-earned taxes are being spent on promoting Labour's political agenda. And how much money the council could have saved by renting out these billboards for commercial advertising instead.

"Labour wants it both ways. They blame the Government for all their cuts one week only to airbrush out the Government funding that enabled Merton's council tax to be frozen the next.  You can't cut services claiming you have no choice and then brag about freezing council tax."

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond added: "At a time when the local council are crying out about supposed hurtful central government funding and they are closing Merton Adult Education and cutting funding for the disabled, am I the only person who thinks spending on political propaganda for the Labour Party represents an odd sense of priority?"

The Conservatives have submitted a formal objection to the council's Monitoring Officer, Merton's External Auditor, the Audit Commission, the Electoral Commission and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). There are thought to be 38 posters in the borough.

But Councillor Allison responded: "The Conservatives hiked up council tax by £100 when they were last in charge and this year they voted against our decision to freeze council tax for the fifth year running.

"So I'm not surprised they don't want residents to know that Labour Merton is the only council in south west London to have frozen council tax every year for the last five years for all residents, rich and poor. The Conservatives wasted tens of thousands of pounds on communications consultants when they ran the council so I'm delighted Labour is able to tell people about our council tax freeze for a total cost of just £637."

March 19, 2015

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