No increase in council tax this year

Wandsworth Council has said it will freeze its council tax this year.


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The proposal for no change in the amount residents pay for the council's services will leave local residents with the lowest tax bills in the country.

The Wandsworth share of the council tax will be £355 for a typical Band D property - the same as in the current year. Residents pay a further £241 to the Mayor - a rise of £17. This produces a total Band D figure of £597 (rounded).

Twenty-nine of London's 33 councils will have a Band D tax in excess of £1,000. Neighbouring Richmond is the highest at £1,339. The average figure is expected to be around £1,100.

Deputy council leader Maurice Heaster said Wandsworth had achieved the impossible by keeping its bills down:

"We have had no help from the Government. By keeping councils short of cash and failing to control their own spending ministers have been forcing up bills everywhere. Councils have been taking the blame for a 'stealth tax ' policy which seeks to hide from taxpayers the true cost of government spending.

"Wandsworth has been able to protect its residents this year, but it is going to get harder in the future as the long term impact of grant cuts is felt. The best defence residents have is this council's 20-year record of delivering the lowest taxes in the country and its unflinching determination to take the tough decisions needed to keep costs down and deliver real value
for money.

"We have achieved this year's tax standstill despite receiving less government grant per head than all but one other inner London borough. Our grant increase of 4.1 per cent is well below the London figure of 6 per cent and is equivalent to a relative loss of £5m.

"Wandsworth also suffers from the Government's policy of shifting resources to northern areas. Wigan, for example, has seen its share of national grant cash go up by 9 per cent in the last seven years. During the same period ministers have reduced Wandsworth's share by 17 per cent.

"There is more bad news to come for Londoners. The capital faces a huge upheaval in three years time when the Government introduces new tax bands and compulsory revaluation of properties. This will inevitably mean higher bills for London's council tax payers."

The Audit Commission has said that town hall bills went up last year because ministers had not given councils enough money to cover the extra costs incurred as a result of national pay and price increases. It said there was a clear association between the size of grant increase a council received and its increase in council tax. The council's budget requirement for 2004/2005 will be set at £269 million.

The proposals for 2004/2005 will be considered first by the corporate resources overview and scrutiny committee on March 9 before being voted on by the full council at its meeting on March 10.

The Band D figure of £597 will be paid by residents of two person households in the majority area of the borough. Residents liable for the levy of the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators will pay a slightly higher inclusive figure of £617.

February 27, 2004