Hammersmith & Fulham Council has announced another freeze in council tax – making it the only council in London to have cut and then frozen council tax over the last four years.
The council formally decided at a full council meeting on 21 February to:
- freeze its share of council tax bills for 2018/19
- freeze parking charges for a fourth year in a row
- continue to offer older and disabled people free home care
- maintain the extra £3.4million it put into adult social care services last year.
Government funding cut by 54 per cent
The exceptional H&F record has been achieved against a backdrop of massive financial pressure from the government, including:
- a 54 per cent cut in real terms in government grant since 2010
- an assumption within the grant settlement we’ll increase council tax – this year by six per cent
- Government removal of the council tax freeze grant specifically given to councils to subsidise council tax cuts or freezes.
Total council reform
“We’re reforming every aspect of the way our council operates, to modernise and improve services and put money back into our residents’ pockets,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of H&F Council.
“That’s how we’ve been able to freeze council tax bills while also funding more local police officers than ever before; abolishing charges for adult social care in 2014; and reducing the majority of council charges in real terms.
“Government funding cuts put unprecedented pressure on local services, particularly on care for elderly and disabled residents,” said Cllr Cowan. “But it is exactly those people who are hit hardest by council tax rises.”
Balancing the budget
The unique H&F record has been made possible by:
- securing £310million from developers
- closing down council magazines and other publicity
- cutting senior management posts and restructuring the council
- using big data better to predict demand and make less costly, earlier interventions
- reducing the council’s use of office space
- saving £1m a year by being smarter about the way we do business with other organisations
- saving £600,000 by ending the use of bailiffs to chase council tax arrears, and marketing our ethical debt procedures to other local authorities
- moving more of our interactions with local people online to save £821,000
- a reorganisation of the council's IT contracts to save £1.1m.
Third lowest tax
The council fixed the standard Band D charge at its current level of £727.81 (£1,022.04 including the GLA precept) at the meeting on 21 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: “Across the country, hard-pressed families are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. That's why it is so crucial councils do as much as they can to ease the burden. Hammersmith & Fulham Council has a proud record of cutting council tax so residents will be relieved that their bills won't be going up next year.”