Revealed: Greenwich Time freezing truth over council tax

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…

Greenwich Time, 25 February 2014 and 17 February 2015

On the left, Greenwich Time from 25 February 2014; with this week’s edition on the right.

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.

Greenwich Time, 20 January 2009
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.

Greenwich Time, 1 March 2011

Greenwich Time, 1 March 2011

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.

Greenwich Time, 6 March 2012

In 2012, it’d suddenly become a five-year freeze. Where had the extra year come from?

Greenwich Time, 22 January 2013

By 2013, it’d leapt up to seven years, by including a two-year freeze.

Greenwich Time, 25 February 2014

But in 2014 yet another year was added. Eight years.

Greenwich Time, 17 February 2015

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.

6 comments

  1. spencerdrury

    Hi Darryl, I fear I don’t tend to read Greenwich Time to closely as it simply annoys me so I’m pleased it was mentioned although not in the headline, which could have been titled ‘Council Tax cut again’ I guess. The Housing Revenue report in the Cabinet papers is actually quite interesting as the Government have now capped rent increases I think to the amount Greenwich have put it up by, but the Council’s current policy of introducing a Service Charge is not capped, so this could go up as much as anyone wants it to. Spence

  2. clogsilk

    My guess is the editorial discussions went something like this…

    In 2012. “Wait, we’ve said council tax frozen for four years in a row here, but count them it’s 5 – 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.” “Oh yeah, better change the headline.”

    In 2013. “we’re doing that council tax freeze story again, how many years should we add onto the length of the freeze?” “Dunno, what did we do last year?” “We added 2 years.” “Ok, right, better do that again.”

    In 2014. “We’re doing this council tax story again….” “Yeah, need to add a year onto the number in the headline” “right”

    In 2015. “Hey, I’ve been looking at this council tax story and last year it said it was frozen for 8 years, but I’ve counted and it was only 7, what should we do?” “Oh just keep it at 8 for this time and hope no one notices…”

  3. Nissemus (@Nissemus)

    “…protect its residents as far as possible from the impact of the government’s cuts and the changes to the welfare system.”
    Making its poorest residents pay a percentage of the Council Tax out of their meagre benefit payments to keep everyone else’s payments down seems a odd way of achieving that.

  4. clogsilk

    I still reckon it’s a simple cock up rather than a conspiracy…. We all know journalists struggle with numbers 😉 That of course doesn’t negate the point that GT shouldn’t exist in the first place.

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