Hammersmith & Fulham Council is proposing to freeze council tax for the year ahead, rejecting suggestions from central government that it be increased.
“We are rejecting the government’s suggestion that we raise council tax this year,” says Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan. “Instead, we have introduced new and radical ways of setting budgets and achieving smarter savings. This has enabled us to defend Charing Cross Hospital, freeze council tax, pay for record numbers of police on local streets and protect frontline services such as refuse collection and street cleaning.
“Many of our residents are already struggling to make ends meet. Austerity is a very real thing for them, especially for our older and disabled residents – the very people who would have been hit hardest by council tax rises.
“In H&F we’ve abolished home care charges. We’re continuing to cover the cost of the Independent Living Allowance. And we’ve cut all sorts of other fees and charges to our residents. We’ve done that to ease the cost of living for people in H&F and we’re not going to undo all that good work just because the chancellor suggests it.”
Instead, the council says it is cutting waste and coming up with more innovative ways to balance its books. The council’s government grant has been slashed by £66million since 2010 and it has to make another £15million of savings this year. Recent savings include:
- cutting £350,000 previously spent on council propaganda
- cutting senior management costs by £600,000 in the last 18 months
- cutting councillor allowances by 10 per cent
- renegotiating contracts with suppliers and developers to get better deals
- reducing office costs and improving the use of IT systems.
Explaining how H&F Council has been able to avoid both council tax increases and service cuts, Cllr Cowan says: “Eye-watering levels of cuts in our government grant have meant we have had to look elsewhere for the funds we need to keep children safe from abuse, to look after vulnerable residents and to keep the streets clean.
“We’ve had some major successes in re-negotiating planning deals with developers. That’s given us an extra £51million with considerably more in the pipeline and, while the majority of this will go towards building new affordable homes, these funds will also be used to provide physical and social infrastructure and environmental improvements and thereby releases other funding to protect services.”
Council tax facts
- Last year H&F Council was the only council in London to cut council tax.
- The chancellor of the exchequer proposed that councils INCREASE council tax by 2% this year, and government projections for H&F’s finances included such an increase.
- Bills in H&F are the third lowest in the country, despite H&F having the third highest property prices.
- The proposed net expenditure budget for H&F for 16/17 is £153.5million.
- The H&F charge for a Band D property remains at £727.81. (Total bills will include an extra levy for the Greater London Authority which has yet to be set.)