There's a distinct whiff of political confrontation in the Cheshire air these days.

Call me cynical but maybe it has something to do with the impending elections for both councils in May.

The first salvo was fired by CWAC Conservatives group leader Lynn Riley who said people had been burdened every year with unprecedented increases of more than 19 per cent in their council tax since Labour took over control in 2015.

She said: “Hard pressed residents deserve a break from these rises, even more so as the council collected significantly more in Council Tax receipts than it has budgeted for over recent years.

"The Government has extended a one per cent rent reduction to council tenants over the last four years and we feel it is fair to offer the same to other residents of the borough.”

Ms Riley added that if the Conservatives were in power raising Council Tax would not be their first port of call.

She said: “Our proposed freeze would result in a projected £5.27m shortfall which could be taken from surplus council tax funds and as needs be from the general reserve, the underspend on the capital finance budget and other allocated funds."

Ms Riley added that, if the Conservatives were to regain control of the council in May's local elections, the authority would "explore fully every opportunity to root out wasted spending" and find new ways of cutting costs.

She added: "Raising council tax will be a last resort, not the easy or default option. Labour simply aren’t listening to residents’ concerns about hiking tax – they’ve blocked us from trying to save people money.”

Now there's an election pitch if ever I heard one. Vote for us and we won't put up your council tax.

Which sounds great on the face of it. Now I'm no expert on local government finance but my understanding is the government's financial settlements to councils has been steadily cut over recent years, forcing councils to either cut back on services or raise the level of council tax.

What in effect has happened is that councils have been forced to do both.

Some might say the Tory austerity cuts have been ideological, switching the burden of funding council services away from the taxpayer and on to the council tax payer.

In the words of the song Perfect Day, You're going to reap just what you sow.

Perhaps I should leave the last word with Cllr Samantha Dixon, the Labour leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council: "This pledge is either a false promise, or it demonstrates the sort of financial recklessness that has seen Tory councils in the south on the verge of bankruptcy.

"The local Tories live in cloud cuckoo land. They tell people they will freeze council tax when the Government's criteria for increasing local spending power is reliant on councils raising council tax.

"They promise you that you will pay less tax at the same time as promising more investment in local services. They promise better education for your kids, while cutting almost £12 million from local schools funding. They talk about fixing roads, but it is their own cuts that have forced a national crisis in road infrastructure.

"This latest announcement about a council tax freeze tells us that the local Tories will say anything to buy votes ahead of the elections in May.”

Come May, you pays your money and you makes your choice.

  • Oh dear. I don't normally feel the need to respond to readers who post comments on line about my musings but I feel there are a couple of people I need to set straight.

Last week I wrote about Chester West and Chester Council vacating its Chester headquarters, moving staff to council buildings in Ellesmere Port and Winsford and how wasteful and unnecessary I thought the whole local government reorganisation had been.

Somehow reader knutsfordresident managed to extrapolate from that that I am 'pro-Tory, pro-Brexit'.

Remarkably, nothing could be further from the truth. I am vehemently opposed to Brexit and believe it poses an existential threat to our country.

In my opinion there is no deal better than the deal we currently have as full members of the EU and I cannot support any party that is either driving us towards Brexit in the case of the Tories or enabling it in the case of Labour.

A plague on both their houses, I say. I really can't make myself clearer than that, can I?

And my message to Chesnews is I was being sarcastic when I referred to hurting Chester's feelings. My advice would be go back and read what I actually wrote last week.

I don't think Chester is special in the slightest and I actually point out that Cheshire should never have been divided in the cack-handed and costly way it was.