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Pages tagged "Council Reform"
Even more ‘Nightmare Stories from City West Homes – another 20 more stories and only a change of control at Westminster Council will make a difference
When we launched our first set of 20 ‘Nightmare Stories from City West Homes’ in January 2018 we thought that this would spur Conservative Councillors and City West staff in to action. But all we heard was first, a denial that there was a problem and then, ‘warm words’ that action would be taken.Read more
Council Tax is always an emotive issue in Westminster politics but residents can be confident that Labour will keep Council Tax low.
Westminster Council receives the highest levels of parking revenue (£73.2m) in the country as well as substantial commercial income from its large Central London property portfolio (£42.8m) that help prop up its finances far more than in other boroughs. Westminster’s current total council tax collection brings in around £52m per year- only around 6% of the Council's income.
Despite this due to the impact of crippling Conservative Government cuts to local council funding Westminster Conservatives have raised the Council Tax (the general rate and the adult social care precept) every year since 2016. The Conservatives raised Council Tax by 4% in 2016/17, 4% in 2017/18 and now by 2% in 2018/19.
This is set against cuts forced by the Conservative Government of £38 million in 2018/19 that saw a further £3 million from services for children and young people and £2 million from rough sleeping and supported housing.
If elected in May Westminster Labour pledges to keep Council Tax low. Labour is making a clear commitment that if elected we will not raise the council tax and adult social care precept by any more than the Tories have over recent years. Not only is Council Tax not the main way the Council raises money, a 2% rise brings in less than £1m per year, it is an unfair tax that hits those on low incomes hardest. Councils are also prevented in law from raising the general Council Tax rate or the Adult Social Care precept by more than 3% each (6% total) without holding a referendum of residents- something that has never happened.
Labour will continue to push the Government for fairer funding for local government but will also work to find new ways to support local services, including new ways to earn commercial income. A central part of Labour’s approach will be a ‘zero-based’ review of all existing council expenditure, assessing every pound the council spends to ensure the spend is justified and think how it might be reduced. The review will be backed up by an external ‘critical friends’ board in order to find further efficiencies, including big cuts to spending on temporary and agency worker costs, scrapping the Westminster Reporter, making savings in the Lord Mayor's Office and cutting payments to Deputy Cabinet Members.
Labour's recent budget plans were fully costed and approved by Council Officers and would enable money to be invested to met our ambitious but deliverable manifesto commitments. We will also protect current services residents value such as twice weekly bin collections.
Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Finance David Boothroyd said “Westminster Conservatives keep claiming their council tax levels are because they’re efficient – but people who have actually seen inside the council know the truth. Under Conservative management the council has managed to suppress the full story coming about some of their capers, such as the Managed Services Programme contract, which have led to massive waste of taxpayer’s money. Labour will make sure the council spends efficiently and on the priorities of residents.”
Labour's promise to Westminster residents is that if we win the Council on May 3rd we will keep Council Tax low. We will not raise it by any more than the Conservatives have.
Westminster Council rearranged the production of its usually quarterly local propaganda magazine ‘The Westminster Reporter’ so that three editions were delivered to local residents in the four months prior to ‘purdah’ ban on election advertising at the cost to the tax payer of £180,000.Read more
Westminster Labour know how difficult life has been for so many in our community over recent years due the impact of Conservative cuts to public services and social security against a backdrop of a decade of stagnant wage growth that has hit lower and middle income families hardest.Read more
After decades of the Conservatives taking Westminster for granted, residents have a real chance to change the future of this city. Years of Conservative cuts have taken their toll on local services, particularly for the most vulnerable. The Conservatives have put the needs of developers above the needs of the vast majority of local residents. For generations they have failed to build the Council (social rent) and lower (intermediate) rent homes that Westminster needs to give the City a viable future.Read more
KEY PLEDGE: Westminster Labour will fight for fairness in our communities by supporting the London Living Wage and defending the rights of our EU Citizens
If elected on May 3rd Labour will commit the council to paying the London Living Wage not only to its directly employed staff but also to any future contractors. Under Labour Westminster would seek accreditation with the Living Wage Foundation to provide reassurance that our pledges had been met. We would also sign-up to sector specific agreements, such as the Unison Ethical Care Charter, to help improve working practices across the council and further enshrine our commitment to fair pay. Labour is committed to fair pay not only because it the right thing to do for our workers but because it can help to improve the quality of our public services that our staff deliver.Read more
Under Labour, Westminster will be an open and transparent Council, ending the years of Conservative mismanagement and lack of accountability. We will make the Council far more transparent in its dealings with the public and give residents a far greater say in how it operates. We will seek to improve conditions for those who work for the Council, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it will also enable improvements in service quality.
If elected to lead Westminster Council in May Labour Councillors will introduce a series of reforms to ensure the planning system works for the many not the few. For too long Westminster Conservatives have treated residents as an afterthought in a planning process geared towards the needs of major developers. We think it is time for a change, particularly in the wake of the public scandal around the excessive use of hospitality and the overbearing political influence of Conservative Deputy Leader Cllr Robert Davis.
Westminster Labour’s planning reforms would include:
- Preventing councillors from accepting hospitality from individual developers and their agents
- Requiring the council to record all meetings between Cabinet or Planning Committee Members and developers. Officers should always be present and a summary should be published online.
- Giving residents the right to speak at planning committee meetings to present their case-Westminster is virtually alone amongst local authorities in preventing residents from doing so.
- Providing more information explaining how the planning system works, including jargon busting, to help residents have their say.
- Establishing a ‘Design Panel for Westminster’ to allow professional architects, other experts and interested residents to give external advice to planning committees on design aspects of major planning proposals.
- Creating a new strategic projects planning committee with a large membership to prevent major applications being dominated by the whims of over-powerful individual councillors.
- Scrapping the Council’s Tall Building Strategy to restrict the spread of towers across Westminster.
Labour will push through these changes while ensuring that private developers contribute their fair share of social and genuinely affordable housing in the city.
Labour believes that under Conservative control Westminster Council has put the needs of property developers first for far too long. For decades they have let developers get away with building far fewer ‘affordable’ homes than required under Westminster’s planning policy, they have pushed through controversial schemes and promoted an approach to architecture based on the whims of senior councillors.
There is a clear perception that senior Conservative councillors have a very close relationships with developers. For example the Conservative Deputy Leader of the Council Cllr Robert Davis has had to disclose that since the start of 2015 he has received hospitality related to his role as a City Councillor from developers, big business and other interests a record 514 times. This equates to a staggering 14 cases of declarable hospitality a month, peaking at a ludicrous 47 incidents in December 2016. Labour believes that such an approach does not help build public trust that the Council will put the needs of residents before those of property developers and business interests.
If elected to run the Council in May Labour will engage with industry representatives in open settings to share views and push for residents priorities but we will do so whilst working to achieve the highest standards. Labour commits that:
- Labour Cabinet Members and Councillors will not accept hospitality from individual developers and their agents.
- Labour will require the Council to formally record all meetings between Cabinet Members and developers when discussing individual schemes. There will always be an officer present.
- A record of these meetings will be posted on the Council website within two weeks.
Cllr Adam Hug said “Labour will act to change the broken culture at Westminster Council so that we put the needs of residents before those of developers. Councillors should have a transparent relationship with developers and other powerful interests so that residents can be assured that their representatives are fighting for them rather than dining out on developers’ expense accounts.”
There is no suggestion Cllr Davis has broken any laws or rules
From the national scandal over Carillion to local resident frustration with the new CityWest repairs contractor Morgan Sindall it is clear that change is long overdue to the culture of outsourcing in the public sector.Read more