New administration outlines early savings

As part of a bold new approach to reduce town hall spending, Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council approved £4million of in-year savings.

The new administration developed the early savings to prepare for a 2015/16 budget gap of £24.4m. This rises to £65.3 million in 2018/19.

Cllr Max Schmid, the cabinet member for finance said the new administration had listened to residents' concerns about "wasteful spending" in areas like communications - particularly on glossy magazines and lamp post banners that promoted councillors.

Savings are being made by reducing this expenditure on communications, securing better joint working amongst council departments and with other public bodies and an early review of spending across the council.

These savings followed the decision last month to cut levels of Special Responsibility Allowances that councilors receive by 10% and ending the former practice of paying multiple allowances to individual councillors. Food at council meetings was also scrapped.

Cllr Schmid said "Residents rightly expect that every pound spent by the council benefits the borough- hence our decision to take early action on spending. Many of the so-called ‘savings’ in previous budgets actually involved increased charges on residents, which is not the right approach. None of the savings made here do that’.

"In communications alone our early review has taken out £352,000 of annualised costs by immediately scrapping expensive glossy magazines, vanity banners on lamp posts and council leaflets that were regularly used to promote contentious policies and decisions.

"This is just the first step, and we have appointed a Critical Friends Board that will work with us to tackle the much larger structural savings that need to be made to bridge the budget gap facing the council."

At the full council meeting on Wednesday July 23, councillors agreed a plan to reduce spend against the 2014/15 general fund budget by £3,998,000 and the Housing Revenue Account budget by £108,000.

They also voted to scrap a charge of £478 for a burial at 24 hours' notice, the first result of an ongoing review of the council’s fees and charges.