Thursday 5 February 2015

H&F Labour’s £24m efficiency programme gives residents this year’s best deal in London

Best deal in town: Yellow = council tax cut. Blue = frozen.
Red = increased. Grey = not announced
Hammersmith and Fulham’s Labour administration is reducing the cost of the council to residents despite large cuts to its Government grant. This has been achieved through an extensive £24 million efficiency programme.

H&F is the only London borough so far that has announced plans to cut council tax, according to the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme (see here at 43:50 minutes in). Its Labour administration has also:
  • Cut meals on wheels charges by 33%
  • Cut 15 other council charges
  • Halted the Conservatives' plans to increase parking charges by 14.7% - freezing those instead
  • Also frozen school meals and 138 other charges
  • Given nine in ten charges (as measured by their income value) a real terms cut
  • Become only the second local authority in the country to abolish charges for home care needed by disabled and elderly people.
Neighbouring Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea –two Conservative councils with whom Hammersmith & Fulham shares some services – are both planning to freeze rather than cut council tax.

In Bromley, the Conservatives are planning an almost 2 per cent council tax hike, despite an election pledge to freeze it.

“My fellow Labour councillors and I pledged to tackle waste in order to cut council tax and cut fees and charges. We didn’t make that promise lightly and we're now getting on and doing just that”, said Hammersmith & Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan. “Within our first days in office, we saved hundreds of thousands of pounds by just by cutting council publications and ending the Conservatives’ use of lamppost vanity banners which they used to promote their councillors and political propaganda. We are using these and many, many other savings to reduce costs to residents as promised - despite heavy Government cuts.”

Labour’s efficiency programme
Although Government cuts have seen Hammersmith and Fulham’s spending power slashed by 10%, the Council’s Labour administration was able to cut taxes because of a wide-ranging efficiency programme, expected to save almost £24 million. This builds on the work Labour did in opposition to identify over £20 million of structural waste.

Key savings from the annual budget include:
  • £4.3 million from securing outside investment from property developers and health authorities to fund areas previously paid for by council taxpayers
  • £3.8 million from improved performance and market share of the Council’s commercial functions 
  • £3.5 million from renegotiating contracts and better commissioning
  • £2.5 million from rationalising the council’s office estate
  • £2.3 million from sharing services better with other councils 
  • £750k from paying down and restructuring historic debt
Budget proposals went through a series of five public Policy and Accountability Committees over the course of January. They will be voted on by the full Council on 25 February. The Labour administration is about to begin a series of targeted zero-based service reviews so that resources are properly allocated to delivering the best outcomes for residents.

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