Now that's more like it! Hammersmith & Fulham Council is cutting Council Tax bills for its residents by 3% from April, it has been announced today. It's the first cut for more than a decade.
Council leader Stephen Greenhalgh (pic) says: "This is the first budget since the May 2006 election and we are combining lower tax with more cash for things that matter to residents. The council is pumping in £1.5million over two years to pay for round the clock beat policing in our town centres as well as spending more on schools and providing free homecare for our most vulnerable residents. We were elected to cut council tax bills and deliver better front line services and this is what our first budget does. While other councils are piling more tax on their residents we are reversing that trend and turning back the clock so that our council tax is now at 2004 levels. That's got to be great news for everyone, particularly for our pensioners and those on low incomes. Delivering on our council tax promises means cutting waste and bureaucracy and looking to the market to see if services can be delivered more efficiently. We are not ideologically wedded to privatisation but surely it is prudent for in house services to be forced to compete with private contractors to see if the same, or even better, services can be delivered more efficiently. It is important that people understand these tax cuts are not at the expense of frontline services. We are cutting council waste, red tape and bureaucracy and, as councils like our neighbours Wandsworth have proved, it is possible to have excellent frontline services and low council tax. Residents should compare our efficiency to the Mayor of London's tax escalator which will once again go up in 2007/8. He is going to hammer taxpayers with an increase of well over 5 per cent as well as clobbering commuters with a 33 per cent hike."
I hope other Conservative councils take note. They should all be beating a path to Hammersmith & Fulham's front door to find out how they have done it. Too often Tory councils throw their hands up and accept that they have to have a year on rise in Council Tax. If Hammersmith & Fulham can cut Council Tax while also maintaining frontline services it ought to be possible for others.