Hammersmith and Fulham Council are proposing their sixth reduction in Council Tax in seven years. They are also freezing parking charges. Council Tax in the Borough is down 17% since 2007. How many other bills have done that 0ver that time period?
The Council has not pulled off this great improvement in tax bills by slashing services. All its schools are rated excellent or outstanding, one of only 9 Education Authorities to be able to say that. Crime is down, and the Council has improved its law and order performance. The streets are kept clean, and the parks are highly rated.
Nor has it done it by adding to borrowing. Instead, borrowing has been slashed, with £70 m out of the £168 m total debt paid back in recent years.
So what have they cut? They cut the interest bill by cutting debt. They have cut the bill for office space by one third, streamlining service management and delivery. They have pooled back offices and management with Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, making substantial savings. They have cut senior management by 50%. They have done more for less, and performed better whilst being economical.
Central government and less successful Councils should study their methods. They prove that the answer to high levels of public spending and taxation can be better management. They show that you can make good improvements in services without spending more. What matters is how well you spend all the money that is available. If you can cut the debt you can also cut the costs.
They have established central priorities – high quality education, good social service provision for people, a decent environment – and have shown how to deliver at realistic cost. The message is keep it simple. Concentrate on how you do spend the money, rather than concentrating on how to get more money to spend.