Sunday, 11 January 2015

H&F Labour's 2015/16 Budget: Council Tax Cut; Hundreds Of Council Charges To Be Frozen; Cut, Abolished Or Kept To An Inflation Rise; And The Largest Ever Increase In Council Funded H&F Police Officers

H&F Labour's election pledge cards
At next month’s budget meeting my fellow H&F Labour councillors and I propose to cut council tax by 1%, to abolish home care charges for disabled and elderly people, to cut meals on wheels charges by 33% and cut 14 other council charges. We are likely to be one of the few, and maybe the only borough in the country, to cut council tax and we will be one of only two to abolish home care charges. All of this is exactly what we promised we would do on pledge cards (see attached) and in our manifesto prior to the local elections.

We inherited budget proposals from H&F’s former Conservative administration to freeze council tax. Meanwhile, many residents have been surprised to learn that, H&F's Conservative councillors also planned an immediate 14.7% hike in parking charges and to increase school meals and hundreds of other charges by much more than inflation. We have frozen parking charges and propose to freeze school meals and 137 other council charges – which is a real terms cut in costs. All bar a few of the remaining council charges will only be increased by inflation.
The budget contains much. For example, regular readers will recall that we are also about to put the largest ever amount of council funded police officers onto the streets of Hammersmith and Fulham in the borough's history with ALL of the money for the extra police coming from property deals we re-opened and re-negotiated after the former Conservative administration had agreed them and incompetently closed the book on them. We have also negotiated millions of pounds in extra new affordable homes to buy and to rent. We're about to provide new support to local food banks, along with new initiatives on homelessness, cycling and the environment. Most importantly, we are undertaking a range of measures to defend Charing Cross Hospital including putting together The West London Independent Health Commission chaired by the brilliant Michael Mansfield QC.

H&F Conservatives'
lamp post
vanity banners:
Last month the Conservative/Lib Dem government announced that it will again cut funding to Hammersmith & Fulham Council. This time the cut is officially 4.7% but that increases to a cut of over 10% if ring-fenced budgets and new statutory obligations are added into the list of the council’s financial commitments.

We are now five years into the government’s economically illiterate austerity programme. Local government has taken the brunt of the public sector cuts with even the Conservative flagship Barnet Council producing what they call the Graph of Doom to describe the government’s approach to council finances. So how have we balanced the books?

Well, for all their propaganda and spin H&F’s Conservatives were pretty weak when it came to negotiating contracts, they also employed too many senior managers, they wasted vast amounts of public money on irrelevances and even messed up many aspects of their 'tri-borough' initiative causing unnecessary costs and high profile service failures.

The first thing my fellow Labour councillors and I cut was £400,000 worth of lamp post vanity banners (the attached featuring the current Conservative leader of the opposition) and council magazines. Since we have begun to make a wide range of savings including cutting the number of senior managers; cutting the costs of the office space; making the 'tri-borough' more efficient and negotiating more effectively with suppliers and property developers.

At the last council elections H&F Conservatives put leaflets out falsely telling the public that my fellow Labour councillors and I would put council tax up by 7.7%. Now, that we've done as we said we'd do and cut council tax and many other charges they're all awash.

We said we’d put money back into people’s pockets and improve services. I’m glad that we are able to do exactly what we promised and do precisely that.

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