Westminster City Council’s Cabinet has this evening (20 February 2017) approved what is expected to be the lowest Band D Council Tax in the country for the financial year 2017/18. Westminster already has the lowest Band D Council Tax of any local authority and is 45% lower than the inner London average.
The Cabinet’s recommendation to set Westminster’s Council Tax levels for 2017/18 will need to be approved by a vote at Full Council, which will meet on 1 March, and has been taken against the backdrop of ongoing austerity in the public sector and an increasing demand on many services, resulting in a projected budget gap of a gross £46m in 2017/18 that will be closed if the proposals recommended by Cabinet are approved by Full Council. This will be achieved through the Council’s effective financial planning, as well as the relentless focus on providing efficient and value for money services.
The Cabinet has heard that there are two especially significant changes in the Council’s current operating environment. Firstly, the withdrawal from the European Union (EU) following the referendum in June 2016 and secondly, the gradual move to fully localised business rates by the end of the decade. As the budget report from the City Treasurer states: “The true impact on the Council of both these issues is not yet fully clear and brings both potential risks and opportunities.”
As such, the Cabinet has approved a proposed 1.9% increase in the Westminster element of council tax for 2017/18, as well as a 2% increase for Adult Social Care services that will raise £1m for the most vulnerable residents. To put this in to context, latest figures from the Local Government Association show that 147 of England's 151 local authorities are considering or have approved introducing the social care precept in 2017/18.
With these modest increases, and subject to approval by Full Council on 1 March, the Westminster element of council tax (Band D) would increase from the current £392.81 to a proposed £408.12 per year from 1 April – equivalent to around 30p per week. The Greater London Authority `precept’ will then be added to this Westminster element to generate the final amount that will appear in people’s Council Tax bills.
Cllr Tim Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Finance, Property and Corporate Services said: “Despite the climate of austerity and increasing demand on our services, with our track record of continued leadership and strong management action I am confident that we will continue delivering the excellent services with low taxes that our residents, quite rightly, expect.
“Whilst we will continue to have tough budget decisions ahead and are delivering approximately £130m of savings between 2015 and 2018, we will be spending £850m this year on much valued local services, from libraries to leisure centres, street cleaning and our green spaces as well as the wrap around support for our most vulnerable residents and our children’s services that were rated “outstanding” at their last inspection.
“But with increasing demands and some uncertain times ahead, that’s why we are proposing a modest increase in the Westminster element of council tax, equivalent to 30p per week. But, we will continue to do all we can to make sure we make every penny of council tax payers’ money count and maintain our proud position as having the lowest Band D council tax in the country with services that set standards for others to follow.”