The following press release has just been sent out by Conservative run Hammersmith and Fulham Council in London:
Council tax to fall by 3% — third year in a row
COUNCIL tax bills are set to tumble by three per cent for the THIRD year in a row at Hammersmith & Fulham Council as a major help to residents suffering as a result of the credit crunch.
After three years of tax cuts residents in H&F are expected to be £175 better off compared to the average London borough — a major help when residents are struggling with the cost of living.
While cutting tax, the Council is improving services AND cutting debt. More than £13 million of red tape is being cut in 2009/10 by reducing staff numbers, office space and making better use of IT.
The news comes as the Government today announces its Revenue Support Grant settlement (RSG) which sets out central government funding for local authorities in 2009/10. The level of funding is a major factor in determining council tax bills next year.
Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, H&F Council Leader, said it is up to councils like H&F to offer the best possible services at the lowest possible cost. H&F has received the highest rating of four stars from the Audit Commission for the quality of our services while resident satisfaction has increased nine per cent in the last year… to one of the highest levels in London.
While reducing bills, the Council is:
* Improving schools, with £200 million worth of investment through Building Schools for the Future
* Putting more bobbies on the beat by spending £750,000 on extra police in town centres following the ground-breaking 18-month pilot for 24/7 neighbourhood police in Fulham Broadway and Shepherds Bush Green.
* Improving parks to the tune of £6.3 million on parks and open spaces, including £3 million for London’s iconic Shepherds Bush Green
* Retaining weekly bin collections, while having a single recycling and refuse collection on the same day to make it easier for residents
Meanwhile the Council is:
* Reducing our headcount and agency bills – Staff numbers have fallen by 566 through efficiency measures and agency spend has tumbled from £24 million in 2005/6 to £21 million in 2007/8
* Cutting our debt by nearly £20 million, producing annual savings in borrowing costs of around £1.7 million a year
* Market testing £90 million of services, producing savings of £1.3 million in 2008/9
* Promoting smarter working – cutting accommodation costs is saving £1.1 million
* Improving customer access while saving money – for example by allowing people to renew parking permits online. Overall the council’s award winning Customer Access Strategy has delivered £4 million in savings while substantially improving our service to customers.
Councillor Greenhalgh continues: “At a time of great financial uncertainty for many families we are once again taking the lead in Britain by cutting council tax for the third year in a row. It essential councils like ours do all we can to help hard working families struggling to make ends meet, whilst ensuring we still deliver quality services.
“At the same time we are providing quality local services that people expect, spending money on things that matter. We are improving schools, cutting crime and making our parks better. We are retaining weekly bin collections while making it easier for residents by ensuring that refuse, recycling and street cleaning happen on the same day.
“This is a commonsense council that is leading the way in delivering quality services at the lowest possible cost. Our tax cuts are affordable and do not increase our debt burden. Instead we are cutting debt. I invite politicians of all parties to come to Hammersmith to see how it is done.”
Other examples of cutting bureaucracy over the last two years include:
* Cutting communication costs by £300,000 to the lowest levels in London
* Cutting personal advisers to Cabinet Members – at an immediate saving of over £300,000 a year.
Councillor Greenhalgh concluded: “This shows once and for all that you can reduce the tax burden on residents while improving the way the council runs vital services.”