Greenwich is the only Labour council in the country to run its own weekly newspaper. It’s hard work knocking this stuff out week after week, when nearly everyone else does it monthly or quarterly.
So when Greenwich Time is wheeled into action to promote another council tax freeze, it ends up taking inspiration from last year’s headline…
How can Greenwich Council trail an eight-year council tax freeze for two years on the trot?
Actually, last year’s story was an outright whopper, which nobody seemed to notice at the time. This year’s is nonsense too. In fact, the past few years of Greenwich Time’s council tax stories have stretched the truth.
The last time Greenwich Council upped its share of council tax was by 1.98% in 2008.
So this is the seventh year in a row that council tax has been frozen, not the eighth. It’s certainly the eighth year the tax has been set at £980.91 for a band D home, but the first year of that was an increase.
To get to the bottom of this, we have to delve into the Greenwich Time archive.
Here’s the first year of the freeze, in 2009. Look who we have to thank! It prompted this criticism from Andrew Gilligan on Greenwich.co.uk.
In 2010, ahead of the general election, a “GT reporter” plugged a freeze “for the second year running”. Which was right.
In 2011 (above), Greenwich Time dutifully reported the freeze, correctly saying it was the “third year in a row” the council’s share of council tax had been frozen, after freezes in 2009 and 2010.
In 2012, it’d suddenly become a five-year freeze. Where had the extra year come from?
By 2013, it’d leapt up to seven years, by including a two-year freeze.
But in 2014 yet another year was added. Eight years.
For 2015, the length of the freeze has been, er, frozen.
All of which proves that if you publish enough propaganda, people lose interest in scrutinising it, including your opponents, which is why Greenwich Time is so valuable to the Labour group’s old guard. Last night, Conservative leader Spencer Drury complained that Greenwich Time hadn’t mentioned Boris Johnson’s cut in the GLA’s portion of the bill. He’d have been better off reading Greenwich Time a bit more closely.
Incidentally, one thing you never read about in Greenwich Time is council rent increases – and tomorrow’s cabinet meeting is putting those up by 2.2%, while last year saw a rise of 4.76%. All in this together…
Update 5 March: I’ve added the stories from 2009 and 2010.