Sunday, March 07, 2010

0% Council Tax Reduction

What’s the difference between the heading above and the headline on the main Redbridge-i website – “0% Council Tax Rise”. I’ll tell you. A 0% Tax rise is meant to indicate a successful outcome, i.e. we are not putting your taxes up, whereas a 0% Tax reduction would indicate a failure to reduce it.

Over in Hammersmith and Fulham council tax has been reduced by 3% for the fourth successive year and a Band D property pays £1,121, including the London Assembly precept. Meanwhile in Wandsworth council tax is on course to remain the lowest in the UK at £687 for an average Band D property after the authority announced proposals for freezing its share of the bills for the third year running. Here in Redbridge the tax on a Band D property is £1,405, more than twice that in Wandsworth and over 28% of the basic State pension. These are all Conservative controlled London Authorities so the notion that the Government grant [the majority of a Council’s income] is biased towards the party of government doesn’t really stand up here, but it does indicate a postcode lottery when it comes to council tax and maybe should be looked at again to even out the burden. [Note: yes I know Redbridge is currently "hung" but they are the administration]

Anyway, there are some things to be pleased about. As the Full Council meeting last Thursday unfolded some of the proposed cuts were deferred. The Local Studies Library is safe for another year, the reduction in street cleaning staff has been shelved and also the removal of concessionary rates for over-60 allotment holders, as well as major cuts in the adult social services and highways budgets.

However, the money for these will have to come from elsewhere within the existing pot. That's the challenge for whoever is in charge after May 6th. Unfortunately, the prime candidate to give way, the Redbridge Life Newspaper, seems to be off limits and the Labour group even want it to be more localised, i.e. more expensive.

Here's the official version of events.

9 comments:

  1. Local archives, good news: but is the job of Ian Dowling safe? He has been running the Local History Library for years and his dismissal would be a disaster.

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  2. He's got to retire sometime though. Is there a succession plan?

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  3. The post of Local Studies Librarian (Ian Dowling's post) is safe for another year. As I think are the other part time posts. Ian's local knowledge is impressive but other staff are also very good.

    Not making cuts to local studies this year was a sensible decision by the Council and reflected widespread local concern about the future of what is recognised as a good service.

    However, Redbridge is under pressure, like other boroughs and may have further cuts to make next year.

    The boroughs that cut Council Tax have adopted a "minimalist" approach to services that would not be acceptable anywhere else. Some of their services -e.g for children with disiabilties- are highly limited (bloomin' awful). (And neither have Area Commitees - that's an annual cost of £500K)

    However, Wandsworth and Hammersmith and Fulham both refused to take part in the Government's Comprehensive Area Assessment process claiming to save £200k each - and given a choice of cutting services or cutting paperwork I think they did the right thing.

    Yes that's right, I've praised Wandsworth Council, this once. I must go and lie down...

    Roger Backhouse

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  4. Barkingside 21 is very informative and sometimes you need time to take notice of all the information provided.
    Allotments! I am 99.99% positive that the direct-let allotmenteers are absolutely unaware of the potential demise of their handsome 50% reduction in rent for over 60, etc,....
    I attend the Allotment Forum sessions and nothing has been mentioned there.
    It does not affect Society-run sites and I wonder whose responsibility it is to alert direct-let to what is happening (or will happen)very soon.
    annesevant

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  5. Anne - a very appropriate story for the front page of the next edition of Pravda (Redbridge Lies) but don't hold your breath!

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  6. Society-run allotments keep a data-base of their members. To contact the members is time consuming but feasible if dedicated people take an interest. I don't suppose direct-let sites, even with representatives, have access to the name and addresses of the plot holders. (However, I remember that the Chigwell Road allotmenteers got their act together pretty sharply when relocation was suggested to them.)
    annesevant

    annesevant

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  7. Cllr Keith Prince5:50 pm, March 22, 2010

    Achieving a Council Tax increase of 0% for Redbridge is in my opinion a real success.

    The Council worked hard to deliver on its aim to achieve a freeze in the level of Council Tax for 2010/11 whilst protecting front line services. This was achieved despite Redbridge being faced with a reduction of around £14 million in grant support from Government. £14 million is equivalent to an increase in Council Tax of £155 or 14%.

    Approximately £4.5 million of this arises from the failure by central Government to fund Redbridge at its level of assessed need as calculated by their own formula. The money top sliced from us was used to fund the increases for other authorities with a lower assessed need but already receiving grant far in excess of this. This includes Hammersmith and Fulham who are receiving over £26.6 million more than their assessed need and Wandsworth £51.7 million which is more than half again of their assessed need.

    I would also stress the Council’s budget was delivered in a very difficult and challenging environment not only due to cuts in Government grant but also due to the increased costs we face in providing services to residents. This includes providing care for young people and adults and steps to reduce crime and grime. These costs amounted to a further £15.5 million or 15% on the Council Tax and which was met through efficiency savings and service streamlining without the need to increase Council Tax.

    In the worst recession in all our lives the Council has frozen its Council Tax whilst protecting front line services to help residents through this difficult time.

    Keith Prince
    Leader, London Borough of Redbridge

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  8. Thank you for that Keith.
    It does rather underpin the comment in the original post above that there is something amiss with the way the government grant is distributed. But for that we could well have had a reduction, No?

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  9. Cllr Keith Prince12:25 pm, March 23, 2010

    Absolutely

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