Cllr Cowan with Cllr Sue Fennimore & Borough Commander Gideon Springer
Last night, Westminster Council and Kensington and Chelsea Council decided to exit the ‘tri-borough’ relationship.
Their move follows concerns raised by Hammersmith and Fulham about the value, transparency and conflicts of interest contained in the shared service relationship.
Instead of working to resolve these issues, the two Conservative councils opted to withdraw.
Cllr Stephen Cowan, the Labour Leader of H&F Council said, “We aspire to be the best value, most effective council in the country - the best place for residents to live and businesses to prosper.
“We’ve built a reputation for improving services to residents while keeping tax low. While our Conservative neighbours in K&C and Westminster have increased council tax by 2% and 4% respectively, Labour H&F is one of only a few councils in the country to freeze council tax.”
Cowan also pointed to the facts that H&F are the only London council to cut council tax this electoral term, the only council in the country to abolish charges for adult social care, and the only council to cut 85% of all charges for our residents, including freezing parking permit charges for each of the last three years.
Turning to the ‘tri-borough’, Cowan said, “It is no secret that we’ve had concerns for some time about the value of the ‘tri-borough’, its lack of transparency and its built-in conflicts of interest.”
H&F’s last two budgets identified £31 million in savings. The ‘tri-borough’ contributed less than 1% of that (£171,000). But problems with ‘tri-borough’ contracts, procured by Westminster City Council have cost Hammersmith & Fulham over £5 million. This includes a botched contract for special needs transport that put disabled children at risk (see this Guardian story here) and which H&F has now put right for its children at great expense.
|Tri-borough officers faced conflicts of interest, for instance|
over saving Charing Cross A&E
Cllr Cowan added, “Senior ‘tri-borough’ officers have been put in the impossible position of balancing our determination to keep Charing Cross Hospital open with Westminster and K&C’s support for closing it.”
“We have raised our concerns with colleagues in the other councils, but it seems triggering withdrawal was evidently a long-planned move for them.
"I look forward to having sensible discussions with them about how we can preserve any savings tri-borough may have produced and move on in the best way for our residents.”