Westminster Council is preparing to deliver a new budget on Wednesday 4th March that is proposing a further £18.899 million in cuts and revenue-raising measures to complete its current budget cycle. However even tougher times are still ahead, with the Council’s budget papers forecasting that there will be cuts and cost pressures of £34 million in 2021/22 and £42.69 million in 2022/23 – a huge total of £95.5 million over the next three years. The Council says that it has yet to identify ways to find £63.5 million of this looming hole in the finances, despite future planned cuts to libraries and city management. The Conservative Council needs to do more to speak up against its government’s punitive Fair Funding review that threatens our communities.
The case for national reform of the top band of Council Tax is clear because voluntary measures can’t be relied on to fill the gap. Westminster’s much vaunted ‘Community Contribution’, a voluntary payment of Council Tax by those in the most expensive properties, brought in a welcome but inadequate to the challenge £602,961 in its first year (April 2018-March 2019). Sadly over the last year the contribution has almost halved to £313,000 (April 2019-Feb 2020).
One thing Westminster Council is spending more on each year is the cost of temporary and agency staff. Over the last four years the bill has risen by almost £10 million (rising each year from £14.25m in 2015/16 to £23.92m so far in 2019/20).
Labour is proposing that Westminster Council urgently explores the possibility of introducing a workplace parking levy. Initial projections produced by Council officers for the Labour Group suggest such a levy could raise up to £8.6million per year while helping tackle the climate and air quality crises. Measures would need to be in place to protect SMEs where appropriate. Labour has put down an amendment calling on the council to investigate how to implement such a measure.
Labour Group leader Cllr Adam Hug said, “Westminster Council needs to get a grip on the looming threat of the Conservative Government’s fairer funding review and take urgent action to cut its spending on temporary and agency workers. It must look at innovative schemes to raise revenue while tackling the climate crisis, so it should urgently explore the option of workplace parking charging in our city.”