Half a Per Cent Cut in Council Tax
Hounslow say cost cutting has enabled continued investment
Hounslow Council has announced it intends to cut council tax in 2013/14 by half a per cent, following a six-year freeze.
The borough also proposes to spend over £2 million on services, on top of the extra £2 million invested in 2012/13 in services such as child protection (£250,000) and improving Hounslow town centre.
The investment is balanced by a commitment to save £12.5 million in the next financial year through working more efficiently through new contracts, partnership working and a continued war on waste.
The council has met its savings targets by £500,000, which it says enables the reduction of half a per cent off council tax bills. The opposition claim the cut is possible due to help from the Government which is, for the third year running, providing the funding for all councils who are able to freeze or cut their tax.
For a band D household, the decrease is worth £5.45 a year (£9.17 including the GLA’s proposed decrease).
When the council tax freeze over the past six years is taken into account, and inflation is added into the equation, borough residents are over £200 better off according to Council calculations.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Jagdish Sharma, said every little extra piece of help would be important for those on low incomes.
He said: “We have managed to keep our pledge to reduce council tax by working hard to reduce our costs and be more efficient – but we are also protecting front-line services.
“Local government finances remain extremely uncertain but we are the highest performing part of the public sector – I hope that the government gets its own house in order before it takes any more money from efficient local authorities.”
The council’s proposals for the coming financial year include cuts of £12.5 million alongside investment plans.
Leader of the opposition Conservative group, Councillor Peter Thompson commented, “It’s a bit cheeky for the Council to be taking sole credit for this in their press releases when it’s been partly funded by money from the Conservative led government who is, for the third year running, providing funding for all councils who are able to freeze or cut their tax. Also a lot of the projects that they are boasting about are being paid for by either Boris, (improvements to Hounslow Town Centre), central government (the PFI for Hounslow’s roads and highways) or were the result of decisions by the previous Council (the outsourcing of Hounslow’s libraries and leisure centres).”
Councillor Thompson claims that Hounslow Council are over-stating their budget problems and have plenty of available cash. General Fund Balances have increased from £10.4m in April 2011 to £14m in April 2012. Only £2.8m of the £4.8m New Homes Bonus has been allocated with none used to date and only £0.2m of the £1.6m Leader's Transformation and Improvement Fund has been spent.
Cllr Colin Ellar, the council’s Deputy Leader, claimed that while many councils were cutting and reducing, Hounslow was continuing to invest.
He said: “New contracts like Hounslow Highways will deliver better services and a better borough. Our libraries and leisure centres are safe from the axe.
“But the challenges remain – huge pressures on social housing, the impacts of welfare reform, and keeping our local economy as buoyant as possible.”
Hounslow’s 2013/14 budget will be set at the Borough Council meeting on Tuesday 26 February.
January 29, 2013