Five months of unnecessary pain, and still not done…
For some time, I resisted calls from many constituents asking me to call for a council tax refund from Cumberland Council because of the significant waste collection disruption. I wanted to have faith that the council would be pulling out all of the stops to find a resolution.
But it has been increasingly apparent throughout that that wasn’t the case. The council has negotiated in bad faith throughout - publicly attacking workers who simply wanted to be paid the same as others doing the same job for the same authority, just down the road; constantly seeking to muddy the waters on pay rates to confuse the ratepaying public; disingenuously attempting, initially, to suggest that the council weren’t the employer and weren’t in control; and letting officers of the council and Allerdale Waste Services front up where councillors should have been – a gross dereliction of leadership.
But I have now decided to add my name to those calls for a refund, because of both the inaction and the disingenuous, at times callous, actions the council have taken.
Haven't we been here before?
Having been put in the same position previously by an incompetent Labour council, when I took office as Deputy Leader in May 2019, I had some sympathy with the council's position on council tax refunds. I knew the arguments that they would proffer – that only a small portion of the council tax funds waste collection, and that the payment of council tax is not contingent on the regular delivery of services.
They say history repeats itself. In late-May 2019 when the Conservatives took control of Allerdale Borough Council, residents across the borough had suffered disrupted bin collections for weeks – and senior councillors were nowhere to be seen. The council had been under Labour control, with many of the same faces at the top as have been heading up this latest debacle in Cumberland. Similarly, the council had just hiked residents’ council tax by the maximum legally allowed on the 1st April – ironically, the day Labour's bin chaos (part one) had started.
At the time, Labour Politicians had been silent during those initial weeks under their control. But no sooner had they lost control of the council after the elections, and the calls in the press for a council tax refund started.
In 2019, Labour wanted a refund for just two months disruption. My constituents have had five months of disruption, dragged out needlessly by the council only to end up where they should have been in April.
In 2019, the Conservative council recognised that residents had had both Labour’s maximum council tax increase and significant disruption to services. So in April 2020 their council tax rise was just £2/year on a band D property.
In April 2023, despite the cost-of-living pressures faced by all of my constituents, Cumberland's Labour executive chose to hike council tax for Allerdale residents by 6.7%, almost the highest rate in England – a £110/year increase.
Since then, all residents have had to show for it is cancelled recycling collections; huge disruption to domestic waste collections; cuts to frontline services; a significant decline in the tidiness of our town centres; a proliferation of weeds; and the cancellation of levelling-up projects, such as the Maryport swimming pool funded by this Conservative government.
If Labour's current plans play out, they’re also soon to be hit by another huge increase in council tax, their weekly bin collections are at risk of being moved to fortnightly, and we hear again that they're considering charging for garden waste collections – a plan that we had to stop in 2019.
I believe that the very least they can do is to refund Allerdale residents this year’s increase. You can read my letter to the council leader here 👇