|Cllr. Max Schmid (Lab) setting out the case for genuine tax cuts|
and rooting out the chronic levels of council waste
"I would like to start by thanking the voters of Wormholt and White City who elected me to represent them. I also want to thank the police and election officials who ran such a smooth process.
The election, though, came under by the worst possible circumstances - the sad loss of Councillor Jean Campbell.
As we all know, Cllr. Campbell was a strong and much admired representative for her ward. She built up a huge respect in the community. She was a genuine leader whose loss has been felt deeply.
On the doorstep, many residents warned me that she is an impossible act to follow, but I will do all I can to carry on working for the positive changes she wanted to see for Wormholt and White City.
I want to use this speech to discuss two points about this budget:
I will talk about the Council’s range of taxes, fines and charges, and I will then discuss tackling council wastefulness.
In the recent by-election, I stood on a platform that supported the council tax cuts and argued for reductions across many forms of council stealth taxes.
So I understand why the Administration makes much of the Council Tax cut. They have even gone as far as changing their logo. Gone is “Putting residents first.” That has been replaced with “The low tax Borough”. But is that true? Or, is this claim contradicted by the nearly 600 stealth taxes that have been introduced or increased since 2006.
I worry that when you consider all of the costs imposed by the Council on the residents it once claimed to put first, we actually live in a High tax Borough.
Residents don’t distinguish between the different ways the Council takes money from them. They look at what they get from the Council, and what they pay in through not only the official Council Tax, but also the huge range of stealth taxes. More and more, they are not satisfied with the deal they are getting.
Let’s take the example of a 72 year old lady I met last June while canvassing in the Town by-election. She lives in a nice flat, she worked hard all her life and has always paid her taxes. She told me that since 2006 her Council charges for meals-on-wheels, which she depends on, have gone up dramatically above inflation, adding an extra £700 to her annual bill.
She thinks that Hammersmith and Fulham is a high tax Borough for elderly residents.
While canvassing in Fulham Reach ward last weekend I talked to a small business owner who told me that his costs for refuse collection had gone up drastically in the last three years alone. They go up even further in this budget.
He told me that Hammersmith and Fulham is a high tax Borough for small businesses.
During this month’s by-election, I met parents in White City who take their kids to play football in Hammersmith Park. They told me how important it was for them to keep their children active and fit. But they complained that the council has rented out the park to a private contractor that has imposed charges for a pitch to up to 90 pounds an hour.
For them, Hammersmith and Fulham is a high tax Borough for families.
And a few weeks ago the Sunday Times exposed the £3m motorist trap in Fulham that Transport for London said was specifically designed to multiply council earnings instead of properly regulate traffic.
As they sit at home and ponder their exorbitant ticket, these 80 people a day can only conclude that Hammersmith and Fulham is a high tax Borough for motorists.
And all the while lots of council waste that should be tackled isn’t. Perversely, one of the biggest areas of waste is the millions every year the Council spends congratulating itself and trying to convince residents they are getting a good deal. The expensive, glossy leaflets printed and delivered to residents, the acres of high-rate newspaper adverts, the Maoist posters hanging from streetlights and now a ridiculous rebranding exercise.
All of this £5 million of waste on PR could be cut. Instead—only a paltry £10,000 savings is made in this budget on Communications.
With massive cuts everywhere else in this budget, communities facing the sale their homes to overseas developers and our two Hospitals betrayed, the propaganda budget seems to be the only thing this Council is prepared to protect.
So, just as I did in my recent election, I will continue to campaign for a genuinely low tax Borough.
I will work to cut council waste on propaganda, to remove layers of expensive senior bureaucrats and end its exorbitant use of consultants.
But I will also fight for a better deal for local residents.
I want a Council that thinks it is worth fighting to keep Hospitals in the area instead of wasting even more money on a PR campaign pretending the local health service had been saved—a preposterous claim that yesterday even the Conservative Secretary of State seemed unimpressed by.
Hammersmith and Fulham is crying out for a fresh approach. One that genuinely puts money back in people’s pockets, tackles waste and still aspires to put residents first.