Categories
Ealing and Northfield

Hammersmith and Fulham 3% off

For the second year running our neighbouring Tory borough are promising a 3% cut in council tax, see their press release. Some people think that the Hammersmith and Fulham Tories are being a bit full-on going for lower taxes each year. Ealing has chosen a different path. Rather than going for headline cuts we are taking a steady-as-she-goes approach. We are working equally as hard as H&F to make savings – we discussed £10.8 million worth of savings at last night’s Overview and Scrutiny panel. Opposition councillors made a few desultory comments but there were no objections voiced to any of the savings being proposed.

The difference between Ealing and H&F is not in our search for efficiency and value for money it is in our approach to spending the dividend. H&F has decided to return it to council tax payer – an entirely reasonable and honourable thing to do. Our approach is to spend it on things that our council taxpayers really want – more street cleaning, better recycling, more road resurfacing and 50 new PCSOs. These are services that only a local authority can provide. We think our approach is right for Ealing. I am sure the Tory group in H&F think their approach is right for their borough.

Both boroughs are demonstrating that, for all the talk that local government is so constrained by central government that it isn’t interesting anymore, you can make a difference to your community if you have a vision. Greenhalgh in H&F and Stacey in Ealing are going down different paths but they both know where they are going.

9 replies on “Hammersmith and Fulham 3% off”

I very much appreciate the good financial management and discipline as well as the laser-like focus on the priorities that Ealing Council now has under Jason Stacey and your approach has made a huge difference at street level. But that’s 6% off the bill in two years in H&F, from memory, if they maintain that run rate in years to come that will start to look really attractive.

or you believe that you know best how to spend the voters money. H&F want to leave the money with the voters to choose how they spend it.

A bit unfair – we in H&F have also invested in service provision:

The Council is pumping in £1.5m as part of a £4m investment over two years in 24-hour policing in town centres. H&F is also planning to invest £1.5m in parks in 2008/9.

Corin and HF,

You are both saying that it would be better to let people spend their own money and to a large extent I agree.

Having been on the inside of the budgeting process last year in Ealing I know how hard it is to make these decisions. All the time a number of factors are working against you. For instance, this year the government grant is going up by about 2% whilst real inflation is running much faster than this. Another for instance, the move towards older motherhood is feeding into more children with special needs who have long lives and become adults in care.

Jason Stacey’s approach is a small “c” conservative approach and it is one I am happy with. Stephen Greenhalgh’s approach has its appeal but will be extremely hard to sustain over many years.

Paul,

I hope I was not unfair to H&F. I admire what you guys are doing – even if you have put up pay and display charges around my business by 50% this month. I feel that I will be personally contributing to your residents’ 3% cut.

I am sure you are growing some important aspects of your services. My comparison still stands I think.

To give an example, two roads in my ward are going to be resurfaced this month. No-one else can do this only the council. We could put this spending off, as the previous Labour administration did for 12 years, but there comes a point where you are not doing your job if people can’t move around because the roads are so crap.

Conservatives should not merely say we are better at managing increasing state spending than Labour. As Conservatives we should also be seeking to increase individual freedom by reducing the amount of money taken from people by the state.
The idea of a correlation between increased spending and improved services is discredited, not least by the present Government.
In Hammersmith and Fulham services have not merely been maintained but improved.
Wandsworth has shown low Council Tax combined with excellent services can be sustainable.
This table by the Taxpayers Alliance gives one example of our approach. It shows annual spending on publicity in H&F is £669,000. In Ealing it is £2,979,000.
http://tpa.typepad.com/home/files/council_spending_uncovered_1_publicity_london_regional_table.pdf

Harry,

Great to hear from you.

I am not suggesting that we should simply be better managers of greater appropriations.

I am saying that there are some things that only a council can do, such as mend roads that it owns, and we should do this as efficiently as possible and concentrate on providing simple, but extremely valuable services such as these.

In 2005/6 the previous administration spent about £1 million on roads and footpaths in Ealing. We added £500K in 2006/7. We added £2 million in 2007/8 so we are now spending £3.5 million a year instead of £1 million. We are not doing this for fun. Our roads have been underinvested (in the true sense of the word for once) and need to be maintained.

Both councils are driving hard for efficiencies. H&F are trying to release more back to council tax payers – a fair and reasonable thing to do and right for Hammersmith I am sure. Ealing is keeping rises lower than inflation but using savings to deliver tangible benefits for council tax payers. We think this is right for Ealing.

As I said originally local government is still interesting and both authorities are providing models that others might wish to follow.

PS The TPA figures for publicity were useful – I was doing this kind of work with them 2 years ago. You will see our figure go down in future but don’t forget our population is twice yours.

But why don’t Ealing conservatives believe it is right in principle to CUT taxes? It is appalling that they should not want to give some of the money back to the voters whom they took it from. It is reminiscent of G Brown’s: “I have had representations to cut taxes but have chosen instead to increase spending.”

It sounds as if in Ealing voting Conservative is merely the better of two evils. They don’t even advocate sharing the proceeds of growth; instead, all is to be gobbled up by the council public spending juggernaut.

Tim,

We do believe that it is right to cut taxes. Last year’s increase in council tax was 1.9%. Whilst this is a rise in cash terms it does represent a substantial real terms cut. At March 2007 the Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 3.1% and the comparison is even more stark if you look at the old Retail Price Index (RPI) which was 4.8% at March 2007, see numbers here. It is not hard to argue that we made a real terms cut of almost 3% last year. If we can maintain this kind of performance for a few years it will substantially reduce the proportion of your income that is is given up to the council every year.

We were elected on three main priorities which we are delivering on. Value for money services was one of them and we think that the 1.9% council tax increase delivers on a large part of that promise. We also talked in our manifesto about cleaner streets (eg carboard and plastics re-cycling, better street cleaning and much more road/pavement resurfacing) and safer communities (eg 50 more PCSOs, an envirocrime officer for each ward).

Having kicked this off I ought to say that as an Ealing resident I am very pleased with the progress that has been made there. The streets used to be an absolute disgrace, graffiti seemed completely unchecked, litter everywhere and there was an almost a palpable feeling of neglect.

That has changed and I now enjoy living in Ealing far more than I did, I also feel safer.

I also note that the council’s finances are back on a more than solid footing which, added to the genuine improvements we have seen and the below-inflation CT rises, deserves recognition.

Comments are closed.