Budget Masterplan shows the campaigning skills of Mary Mears

‘Clive’ had criticised me on two or three occasions for not explaining what strategic thinking is.  He feels I have been silent of the matter for too long.  I will remain silent further –  it is not my role to get inside the head of this or any other political leader.  What I can say is that the announcement today from Mary Mears has boosted the chances of her party in May’s elections and demonstrates, once again, what a competent politician she is.

The budget announcement offering a 1% cut in Council Tax has Mary Mears fingerprints all over it.  A master stroke.  Now you and I may dismiss it as a mere political gimmick, but it is a smart one.  It will give the Tories a bounce and boost Mary Mears’ standing in the Tory Party itself.  Many of the Young Turks in its rank, (Rachael Bates, Rob Buckwell, etc.) sees Council Tax cuts as the Holy Grail, and councillor Mears is delivering. (Update: When I first posted this item, I called Rob Buckwell ‘Rob Buckley’.  I have corrected this and send Rob my apologies.  I used to know an estate agent called Rob Buckley.  Can’t think how I made that mistake!).

She told me (actually, it was a press release from the Council) “We face challenging financial times and our aim has been to ensure we are as lean and effective an organisation as possible. Our new structure means we identify how best to deliver the services that residents in the city want.

“But through robust financial management we want to help residents in the financial squeeze by reducing council tax and ensuring that we deliver essential services effectively.”

There will be a debate, of course, about the redundancies that have been announced, but even here the council (or is it Mary Mears, again?) looks to have been smart.  As the council press release says: “Job losses will be minimised because the council has already started deleting empty posts and reducing use of agency staff as well as redeploying and retraining. These principles have helped reduce the risk to jobs overall.”

Clive has also commented on my alleged ‘grudge’ against Mary Mears, as suggested by ‘The truth’: “if the blogger has a huge grudge against Mary Mears, he has an odd way of showing it.”  I recently posted an item describing Mary Mears as a shrewd operator you underestimate at your peril.  Read that post here.

One final points, Christopher Hawtree bumped into me, I mean Roy Pennington earlier today.  Chris confronted me/him, as to whether he was the Brighton Politics Blogger.  “I saw Roy Pennington today and he said, chortlingly, that the most basic textual analysis would show that there is no connection between him and the Blogger.”  Phew, that was a close call.

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11 Responses

  1. If this is genius, I’ll stick to being a fool.

    I do hope the tenner or so people save on this is a comfort as vital services close and 250 people lose thier jobs. It’s as cynical as it is reckless and will still have to be paid for.

  2. Genius? Perhaps not. But it’s very, very clever. It puts all the opposition parties on the back foot; oppose the budget and you’re campaigning for higher taxes, support it and you’ve accepted the cuts. And in a minority administration the votes of the opposition parties make a difference. Both Greens and Labour are going to have to be very careful – both in the way they vote and in the way they present the case. Yes, it’s potentially hugely damaging in the long run. And, yes, the Tories are being less than forthcoming about how many jobs will go in the long term. But it shows that anyone who thinks the Tories will roll over is seriously mistaken.

    And, frankly, it’s difficult to see Labour in Brighton having the nous, the skill or the energy to fight this. If the Greens can pass this test it’s a sign that they’re ready for power.

  3. You are right to point out that I am delighted about the council tax cut, I only hope the opposition parties dont block it. However my name is Rob Buckwell (not Buckley as you put!).

    • I am sure you DO hope the opposition parties block it. If it goes through, people will be able to reflect at leisure about what a meaningless gimmick it is. If the opposition blocks it, this will provide you with some short-term ammo for the election campaign. The Tories don’t actually believe that this measure brings any real benefit any more than anyone else does.

  4. The Tory strategy is to delay the inevitable. The big number redundancies, that other councils are getting to grips with, will come but it will be after May in the form of big in-year cuts. By then they will either be someone else’s problem or they will be at the start of a new term for them (even better, a new non-tory administration might have to reverse the 1% cut). Who cares if another 50 or 60 hard working public servants have to go to pay with their livlihoods for that last throw of the dice she has given herself. Why should she care? This isn’t just the rough and tumble of local politics – it’s people’s lives and once again Mears has shown herself to not give two hoots. As long as she can stay on top everything else can go to hell. This includes the future prosperity of the city which she has personally seen to it is no longer open for business as progress – development, homes, jobs – tend to cost votes rather than gain votes.

  5. I am indeed extremely pleased with the plans to reduce council tax. I join Rob Buckwell in saying that I hope that those in opposition don’t block this sensible plan which will help hard-working people to retain more of their own money.

    • What a joke. The council tax cut is being financed by a central government grant. I’m presuming that Rachael knows where the government’s money comes from? We’re paying for our own tax cut!

  6. Dan exposes the cynicism of the 1% tax cut succinctly with the concrete example that for most “hard-working people” this amounts to around £10 cash back per year (admittedly more for the better-off). To pretend that this is going to help families – or in more abstract terms help the local economy – when the reality is that you would be shutting services and making hundreds of people redundant is totally dishonest.

  7. Cliche alert: Rachael – will lazy, feckless council tax payers (as opposed to the hard working ones) get to retain more of their own money, or will the Tories hunt them down ruthlessly and ensure that they don’t get the benefits of this gimmick, sorry, minimal tax cut?

    Thanks BPB – I only mentioned this twice, but it is important. Policies are a million times more vital and interesting than personality based bitchery, especially given that most people (me included) won’t have a clue about the personal foibles of individual councillors and probably won’t be that bothered.

    The council tax cut is the equivalent of an irresponsible giveaway budget – it is the kind of behaviour that the coalitionistas are trying to pin on the last governemnt, with very little basis in fact.

    It only has to be hoped that enough people see through it – fortunately B&H voters are pretty clued up, in my experience. One percent is not much, either, and it won’t be enough if the opposition parties remember that the Tories are in power here (barely) and it is their seats (the winnable ones) that ought to be targeted.

    HP is spot on about apres May le deluge, of course.
    This is the oldest trick in the book.

  8. I would have thought it likely that any proposed cut from the Council could be more than wiped out by a rise in the police precept – so people might see an overall rise anyway. However the move does present a challange to other parties – how much will they propose to raise Council Tax in order to save jobs and services? The reduction from the Tories just makes the gap larger, and a harder sell. Arguing for a 1% difference is far easier than a 10% one.

  9. […] 12, 2011 by brightonpoliticsblogger There has been quite a response to Friday’s post Budget Masterplan shows the campaigning skills of Mary Mears.  Some people ‘get it’, others (Dan Wilson) […]

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