Third year tax freeze warms residents

as Wandsworth Council expects to maintain the lowest council tax in the country


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Wandsworth Council will next month maintain its 25 year record for setting the lowest average local taxes in the country when it freezes its share of the council tax for a third successive year.

In the same three-year period the Mayor of London's bills, which are collected for him by local councils, have risen by 29 per cent.

The combined Wandsworth band D council tax of £643.41 is made up of £354.80 for the council's services and £288.61 for the Mayor. It is again expected to be the lowest for any council in the country.

In December 2006 the Audit Commission placed the council in the top five in the country for performance. Wandsworth was the only one in this elite group also to receive top marks for its use of resources.

Deputy council leader Maurice Heaster said:

"The Audit Commission underlined what our 25 year record had confirmed already for local people: Wandsworth Council is number one for both service and value. I n most parts of the country the council tax has become far too expensive. That is why so many people have been calling for it to be replaced.

"But Wandsworth's record with three different systems of local taxation shows that a well-run council that insists on quality services and value for money can protect its residents from high bills.

"We have achieved a standstill tax again this year despite receiving less government help towards the rising cost of local services than other authorities. Our grant increase of 2 per cent does not keep up with inflation and is less than both the London average (2.7 per cent) and the national average (3 per cent).

"But the harder we try to keep costs down, the less inclined the Mayor seems to show any financial restraint. Ministers are threatening to cap councils with 5 per cent increases – it is time they applied this discipline to the Mayor. Very little of his extra spending seeps through into Wandsworth. Local people will pay an extra £4.5m next year and will get just 13 new police and community support officers in the safer neighbourhood teams.

“Using the Met’s own calculations Wandsworth is still 110 police officers short of the numbers its share of London's crime demands. Meanwhile next door in Lambeth a slightly smaller borough has been given 350 more bobbies than us.

“Despite freezing our own tax bills we will still invest heavily in the coming year in new and improved services for our residents.We will spend another £193,000 clearing away graffiti so we can keep our borough clean and £164,000 on new care technology to help older people remain living safely in their own home.

“We are spending vast sums on social services and leisure. This includes an additional £6m next year to meet the rising cost of care for vulnerable groups including people with learning disabilities. We will also invest more than £4m in new facilities in our leisure centres so that they continue to offer the highest standards for our residents.

“Our tax bill stays the same but our services go on improving – that’s the Wandsworth way that has served this borough well for 25 years.”

The council's budget requirement for 2006/2007 will be set at £178m

The proposals for 2006/2007 will be considered first by the corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee on March 8 before being voted on by the full council at its meeting on March 9.

The aggregate band D figure of £643 will be paid by residents of two person households in the majority area of the borough. Band D residents liable for the levy of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators will pay a slightly higher inclusive figure of £666.

February 24, 2006