Westminster City Council has (on 1 March) approved what is expected to be the lowest Band D Council Tax in the country for the financial year 2017/18. Westminster already had the lowest Band D Council Tax of any local authority and is 45% lower than the inner London average.
The vote was 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 as proposals recommended by Cabinet have been 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 Council heard that there are two especially significant changes in the 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 Council 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.
With these modest increases, the Westminster element of council tax (Band D) will increase from the current £392.81 to a proposed £408.12 per year from 1 April – equivalent to around 29p 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 many challenges, the Council continues to excel and deliver high-quality services focussing on meeting the needs of its residents and neighbourhoods. This is as a consequence of effective long term planning and thinking cleverly about our approach to service delivery. The Council is proud of its track record in rising to financial challenges. It is clear that discipline and prudence must continue to be at the core of our approach to budget setting to ensure that we can deliver a City for All and set the standards for others to follow.”