Council gives it's reaction to the Local Goverment Finance Settlement

"It is a one-eyed approach to the funding of vital local services which is storing up huge problems for the future. "


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The council has been told that schools will be the only service to receive extra funding for the coming year following today's local government finance settlement.

The cash squeeze means a real terms cut in funding in other services where there will be no additional grant for pay and inflation.

They say that it will hit services to vulnerable groups including children and the elderly as well as a host of other vital town hall services. As Wandsworth, and other councils in the same position, will have to decide whether to put up taxes - and risk being capped by the Government - or cut back these services.

Wandsworth received a 3.9% increase in total grant compared to an inner London average of 5.3%. The difference is worth £3m in lost grants.

Deputy council leader Maurice Heaster said:

"All the money has gone to bankroll the education secretary's promise of more cash for schools. There's nothing left for all the other services that councils like Wandsworth have to provide including social services, street cleaning, recycling and crime prevention.

"Wandsworth is, in the Government's own terms, an excellent authority with top quality social services and the lowest average council tax in the country. Yet the local government finance minister Nick Raynsford seems to think we can go on absorbing these cuts in grant and still deliver the same excellent services and not put the council tax up.

"This grant settlement makes tax increases and service cuts next year inevitable.

"With councils facing tough choices like these, it is indefensible for the minister to threaten capping 'high' increases when he has so far refused to spell out what 'high' means.

"Such threats are even more ludicrous when they apply to a council that has had the lowest average taxes in the country for the last 20 years."

The Government says it expects council taxes next year to rise by 7%. This would imply an average band D amount of £1,179 across the country. Wandsworth's band D is currently £580 - about half that average.

Final decisions on next year's council tax levels in Wandsworth will be not be made until February 2004.

21st November 2003