Two Year Freeze for Ealing Council Tax
Tories say Government grants have enabled 0% increase
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing council, has announced an intention to freeze council tax for the next two years. The council tax bill for the average band D household is now £1,366.65.
If the decision is approved, it will mean that council tax bills in the borough will remain at April 2008 levels until March 2015 – which would be a six-year bill freeze.
Councillor Bell said: “Local government is facing the bleakest period in its history with unprecedented year-on-year cuts to our government funding. But, the reality is that local people are also suffering, with the cost of living rising and many bills rocketing, so we are doing everything possible to ease that burden by keeping council tax as low as possible for as long possible.”
In the provisional local government settlement announced on Wednesday, 19 December the council found out that it would see its grant cut by £20million next year and is expecting a £15million cut the year after. Over the two year period this represents a 19% cut.
However, the Conservative opposition dispute these figures. Councillor David Millican, Conservative Group Leader said: "We welcome the Administration's announcement that they are taking the extra government grant to freeze council tax for the next two years. However, yet again, the Labour Administration is being economical with the truth, as the Council Tax freeze, they are proud to take credit for, is in fact thanks to a Government grant."
Councillor Mark Reen, Conservative Finance spokesman added, "The £20million cut in the formula grant that has been mentioned, is actually being given back to the Council in the form of a New Homes Bonus Grant which, unlike the Formula Grant, is not ring-fenced. The Labour Administration should use this grant to provide affordable family-sized homes, and not waste it on more iPads for themselves, new buildings and an unnecessary car park!"
The government grant settlement funding accounts for just over half the money the council has to spend on the day-to-day running of its non-school services. The rest of the money is raised through council tax and other income. The savings needed to reach the council’s target of £85million by April 2015 have been identified. They say they are doing this by improving efficiency, reducing the cost of some of its contracts, financed projects from money held in reserve and worked in partnership with other local authorities to jointly purchase some services. According to the Council, staffing costs have been reduced and the council is streamlining management structures and the amount being spent on senior management is being cut by 30%.
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance and performance, said: ““While this latest round of cuts is roughly what we expected and had planned for, the council is finding it harder and harder to keep pace with these cuts and to find ways of reducing spending that don’t cause our residents real pain.
The council has been asked to respond to the government by 15 January 2013 with its comments on the settlement.
January 4, 2013