Monday, December 19

Gobsmacking–a public sector body actually reducing tax

I am so impressed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, who have proposed to cut council tax by 3.75% and this is the 5th year out of 6 that they have managed to do so. I quote:

This saving is due to several cost cutting measures including combining services with Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea councils in order to cut management and overhead costs by half.

This tax cut will be realised without resorting to the kind of ‘bleeding stump’ approach of shutting libraries and cutting services that some councils have taken, say H&F:

“While planning to cut [council] tax, H&F is intending to freeze parking charges, keep all its libraries open, maintain weekly or even twice-weekly refuse collection and plough £1.3 million into extra town centre police.  It is also one of just two councils in London offering homecare to people in the ‘greater moderate’ as well as ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ banding.”

Further savings are to be made by selling off underused property, co-locating services among other measures in order to pay off about half the council’s debt and reduce annual interest payments.

We are pleased to see that some councils are giving taxpayers a break. The dramatic savings that H&F are proposing show that other councils can follow suit with tax cuts by cutting out waste. Sharing services can be a sensible way forward, too. It’s a shame that other councils are choosing to increase council tax, like Brighton & Hove who are looking to impose a 3.5 per cent hike.

The welcome move by the Department of Communities and Local Government to use money generated through other taxes to help councils freeze council tax bills cannot compete with genuine tax cuts. Funding from central government grants may be falling but since council tax has doubledover the last ten years, there is plenty of space for efficiency savings and for more creative solutions.

Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh, Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council, spoke at a TaxPayers’ Alliance fringe event at the 2011 Conservative Party Conference. He explained the position they were in when they took over and how things have changed since then. Council tax has fallen from one of the highest levels in the country to one of the lowest, while debt levels have been reduced at the same time.

My local council, on the other hand, has also slashed spending and is just managing to freeze council tax, so including the impact of inflation, can be considered as a reduction of sorts. But since that impacts my income as well, the best I can say about Harrow is that its flat.

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