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.