I have been reflecting on Cllr Muhammed Butt's Council Tax u-turn, which has seen him advocate a maximum Council Tax rise after several years of doggedly trying to freeze the Council Tax even when the Labour Group has voted the opposite. Indeed, Brent has been something of an outlier among local authorities in general, many of which have chosen a rise just short of what would trigger a referendum. Those authorities are now financially better placed than Brent as a result.
Objectively, there are plenty of good reasons why raising the Council Tax is sensible. Yet these reasons have been known for a long time so they seem unlikely to have triggered the u-turn.
Paragraphs 5.10 and 5.11 of the Budget report to Council give a further explanation. The DCLG is assuming a Council Tax rise regardless of whether local authorities make one or not, and cut central government grants on that basis. The case for a continued freeze is therefore even weaker than last year.
All these reasons imply not only a rise this year, but also for the years thereafter.
It would be nice to think that Cllr Butt was convinced by the intellectual arguments, but I think that is fairly unlikely. What really brings this out is that there has been no attempt to alter the Council Tax Support scheme to cushion more vulnerable residents. This would have been possible, had the need been addressed early enough. The fact that is was not suggests to me that Cllr Butt has simply been pushed into a Council Tax rise by the weight of opinion on the Group. The more effective operation of Scrutiny over the past year probably has much to do with this.