Council Tax is always an emotive issue in Westminster politics. 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 also has a long-track record of under-investing in its public services and its upcoming budget plans to cut over £3 million from services for children and young people and £2 million from rough sleeping and supported housing.
Due the impact of crippling Conservative Government cuts to local council funding Westminster Conservatives have raised the Council Tax (including the adult social care precept) every year since 2016.
If elected in May Westminster Labour will keep Council Tax low. Labour will support the current proposals by the Council for a freeze in the Council Tax rate and a 2% rise in the adult social care precept in 2018/19. 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.
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.
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.”
In total Westminster’s current total council tax collection brings in around £52m per year. The Council’s new voluntary scheme for owners of expensive properties is estimated to bring in £350k if people participate. The Council is having to find ‘gross savings’ of £38m in the 2018/19 budget.