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Ealing and Northfield

Ealing council tax frozen

Ealing’s Conservative administration announced today a freeze in Council Tax for the 2009/10 financial year. Cabinet Member for Finance and Performance, Cllr David Scott explained:

We recognise that the economic downturn is affecting the money in people’s pockets and residents are looking to make savings in their own budgets. It is only right that the Council does the same thing and does not add to the pressures households are facing.

I am pleased we have been able to deliver a zero increase this year. We face major hurdles with falling Government grants – below average settlements for the fourth year running – and increased demand from residents who are facing difficulties and are in need of our services.

Yet we have still achieved the zero increase by finding nearly £9M in efficiency savings which will protect front line services and deliver better value for money.

When elected in 2006, the Conservative administration promised to keep any Council tax increases to below inflation. After two successive years of below inflation increases, the real level of Council tax has actually fallen since 2006 and gone down from 23rd to 18th lowest out of London’s 33 Boroughs. In the four years to 2006, the previous Labour administration increased Council Tax by 48% – the second highest increase in London. Over their twelve year period leading Ealing Council (1994-2006) Labour increased Council Tax by more than all but one of London’s 33 Councils. Labour’s huge increases in Council Tax came despite the fact that prior to 2006 Ealing enjoyed above average increases in Government grant, a trend that has since reversed.

3 replies on “Ealing council tax frozen”

Don’t think there was much choice other than to follow Boris (and also because the cabinet has and continues to be in such bad odour over arcadia etc), – but credit where credit is due.

The labour administration’s monumental increase of 48% must have given us some benefits/services. Sensibly what were they? And If the Tories have saved £9M, what services, at headline level, are we going to lose?

It’s a pity that there is not a law which restricts Council increases.

Is it the case that most Tory London Councils get punished by the Labour party with smaller grants and is it worth complaining to someone? Who?

Thank you

George,

The main driver of our decision was the direction of inflation and how that interacted with our costs over the next year. We promised to keep council tax rises below inflation so that is what we are doing.

Your Arcadia comment is a cheap shot. The planning committee is cross party and has a quasi-judicial role that sits alongside the council – one reason that we don’t make a song and dance about planning decisions on the council website. The website reflects the council’s decisions and priorities and therefore does not highlight the planning committee which is outside the political process.

What is really funny about Labour’s rises in council tax was that we got so little for them. Often it is just the process of adding new people to address every new piece of legislation or function rather than demanding that the existing staff take it on as happens in the private sector. Sometimes it is unwillingness to shop around for better value. This year we have still been taking out management layers and losing support staff. Indeed in places we have withdrawn some services which offer poor value, for instance having multistorey car parks staffed. Most multistorey car parks are not staffed and in practice these staff are of little practical value to the public. If you have a choice between staff in car parks and bolstering childrens’ services it is not a hard choice. That really is the kind of choice we have to make in the budgetting process.

The current Tory administration in Ealing is not going to make silly cuts but we will challenge and trim everything in order to control costs. If we have to put up council tax we will but this will be our last resort not our first.

The minister for local goverment can cap council taxes. I believe that councils should be able to set whatever tax they like and leave it to voters to decide – it’s called localism. You get to choose. Ealing people chose the Tories with three priorities to clean up the place, make it safe and deliver value for money. Judge us on that.

On your last point I don’t understand the grant system and very few people do. If you want to complain write to Hazel Blears but don’t hold your breath!

Phil thanks for your comments.
Here are notes on the Budget Report which I doubt you will query/resist next week in Council.

1. Spending on schools – up. Growing population and less money for other projects. What are those?
2. Education had successes, but no mention if Ealing is doing better than other Councils overall.
3. Spending on Decent Homes may be extended. How many more slums need repair?
4. Library funding may be at risk. Something going on with Community Centres, but not clear. Clarify?
5. Council made efficiency savings of £61M in last three years. Potential Budget gap in 2010/11 has been flagged. One can be too careful?
6. Home support is a big success. Residential care admissions have dropped like a stone in last 3 years. How many fall between the gaps?
7. Crime reduced (but not perceptions), street cleaning and services for old and young improved, refuse systems much better. All excellent stuff. Capital spending on streets scheduled to drop a lot. We have value for money: which money?
8. The Audit Commission’s use of resources assessment for 2008, says Ealing is performing well. But contractors are hanging on for 3 months to get their money. Still?
9. The majority of the council’s IT assets are approaching 5 years old and will need to be refreshed in the short to medium term. Was it costed? Is it a priority in these hard times?
10. Government grants are meaner than ever, which raises the question as to why the rate increase was not fixed very slightly above zero to make say another 0.5M income. Does the zero amount mean more than necessary job losses, or borrowing forward when we shall have an increase next year just to pay that off, or do we get less in the way of services?
11. External waste charges are rising and will catch up with us in the end. Cannot see if a buffer is being set aside to soften the blow to the tax payer next or ensuing years. Why?
12. Strangely there will be no growth on existing monies for Housing and Regeneration, which produce new Revenue. The 2 Capital reserve funds will stay the same or reduce, instead of increase slightly under the heading of Prudence. There’s a credit crunch. Odd?
13. Capital expenditure in the election year appears forecast to be half of the forthcoming year. Does that mean council tax will be reduced below this year? This slippage is offset by the possibly amazing speculation that it will be balanced by the equally amazing attitude that capital projects overspends are not unusual and amazingly these can be mitigated by tighter controls. Didn’t Maggie Thatcher bring in tighter financial controls with her demanning exercises and resultant competition? How can we trust that our finances are really being tightly managed? Why does it cost £350 to plant a tree, etc, etc?
14. Financial relief for pensioners. Where is it?

14 points (plus the rest), for you to blog about over the next 14+ months. But is democracy dormant?

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