Editor’s comment: Voluntary tax increase is oddly familiar

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council. Picture EM FITZGERALD

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council. Picture EM FITZGERALD - Credit: Archant

I don’t dislike the idea of asking people in expensive homes to contribute extra council tax to a “fairer Islington fund”.

Personally I’d be all for a mandatory hike at the top end, but I don’t think it’s possible to do that without increasing the bill for people in lower-value properties too and, in any case, you need to stage a referendum to put it up more than 5.99 per cent. And there’s little chance of that passing, which means the £400,000 Islington would spend simply asking the question would be wasted.

But if there’s a whiff of familiarity about the policy, that might be because it isn’t a million miles away from something Cllr Caroline Russell proposed 12 months ago – and for which she got pretty much laughed out of the chamber.

What Cllr Russell was suggesting was holding a referendum and trusting that a majority of people in Islington would give it their blessing. While I admire her faith, I don’t think the policy would have got anything like half the electorate’s backing for the simple reason that so many people in Islington are not well-off. That is neither here nor there because Cllr Russell’s motion was defeated.

But if a voluntary council tax increase was a viable option I think it was somewhat disingenuous for Cllr Hull to tell the chamber at large: “This just shows how out of touch the Islington Green Party is. [...] I think a 4.99pc rise is enough. To take the council tax above 4.99pc would mean holding a referendum.”

A year on, not only has it been decided that the maximum council tax hike isn’t enough after all, but a way to increase it further without holding a poll has been found, too. Heaven forbid Islington’s two elected parties should work together. Far better to preach endlessly to the choir, eh?