H&F first council to announce council tax bill freeze

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Hammersmith & Fulham is expected to be one of only a few councils in the country to freeze council tax this year

Hammersmith & Fulham is expected to be one of only a few councils in the country to freeze council tax this year, delivering the country’s best value for money for residents, and resisting pressure from Government to raise council tax bills four per cent a year.

It follows a freeze last year and a cut in 2015-16.

And it means the council could be the only one to charge residents less now than 20 years ago.

The good news in H&F comes as residents in neighbouring areas, like Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, are likely to face tax hikes.

“We know how tough times have got for our residents which is why I’m pleased that we’re the most effective council tax-cutting administration in the country,” says H&F Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan.

“We’re also the only council to abolish charges for home care for elderly and disabled people. We have in fact reduced the majority of council charges in real terms. We’ve done all this at a time when the government is telling us to put council tax up four per cent and punitively basing its funding of us on the assumption we’ll increase council tax.

“We’re taking a hard-nosed approach to council finances which includes ruthlessly changing custom and practices and modernising how the council operates so it delivers more help for more people and improves customer satisfaction.”

The council is set to fix the standard Band D charge at its current level of £727.81 (£1,007.83 including the GLA precept) at a meeting on 22 February. It means H&F bills are likely to remain the third lowest in the country.

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “When hard-pressed families are struggling with ever rising bills, it is crucial that councils do everything they can to ease the burden on residents. Hammersmith Council has a proud record of cutting council tax so residents will be relieved that their bills won't be going up next year.”

H&F Council abolished charges for home care in 2015, the only council in the country to do so. It has also slashed charges for other services such as meals on wheels, which have been cut from £4.50 to £2.00.
 
At the same time, it has made major reductions to the cost of its senior management team, reduced spending on publicity and magazines, cut waste and renegotiated property deals with developers, providing an extra £194million for local services and genuinely-affordable homes.

“We've done this against a backdrop of punitive measures by the government,” adds Cllr Cowan. These include:

  • Cutting the government grant to H&F Council by 66 per cent since 2010.
  • Basing future government grants on the assumption that all councils will have increased council tax by four per cent over the next two years. In H&F that means that our resources are £2.2 million a year less than government assumptions.
  • Removing the additional annual government grant specifically given to councils to subsidise council tax cuts or freezes.
  • Giving councils a number of costly new responsibilities but neglecting to provide any new funds to pay for them.

“That is putting unprecedented pressure on local services, particularly on care for elderly and disabled residents, but it is exactly those people who are hit hardest by council tax rises," says Cllr Cowan.