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The council’s cabinet has proposed the budget for 2024/25

  • A modest 46p per week increase, for Band D, proposed to keep delivering vital council services
  • This rise will help address increasing pressures from temporary accommodation costs
  • Likely to remain lowest Band D Council Tax in the country
  • An extra £1million to the cost of living support to food banks, charities and local organisations directly helping residents
  • £1m investment in CCTV cameras to tackle antisocial behaviour
  • Increase in pay for home care workers totalling £1.2m
  •  A £1.4m investment in the council’s resource to tackle homelessness and support the rise in demand for temporary accommodation

Westminster City Council’s Cabinet has published details of its proposed budget for 2024/25. This includes details regarding the Council’s General Fund, capital programme and Housing Revenue Account.

Local authorities across the country are under significant pressure with demand for and cost of service delivery rising, alongside a cost-of-living crisis caused by persistently high inflation – and despite a better financial position than most other local authorities, Westminster is not immune to these pressures.

This financial year, the council has had to find £20.2m in savings through efficiencies and opportunities to increase income to combat these financial pressures. This is on top of £350m in savings made since 2010. Councils across the capital face a £400m shortfall as recent Government funding announcements for 2024/25 do not go far enough to meet the true cost of the pressures faced, as reported by London Councils who suggest local authorities in the capital are now spending more than £90m a month on temporary accommodation.

The existing housing crisis in London has been exacerbated by a fall in available properties in the private rented sector. This has pushed up demand and prices for people looking to live, work or seek refuge in the city, placing greater pressure on local authorities to support those who need temporary accommodation. A reduction in homes available to rent also means councils are less able to source accommodation for those who need housing urgently. The demand for temporary accommodation in Westminster has risen by 15% since 2022/23. 

Projections show the council will need to find an additional £38m in the next financial year to prevent an increasing number of households becoming homeless. In the absence of central government funding to address this growing crisis, Westminster City Council has already invested an additional £85m to purchase an additional 270 properties for temporary accommodation. This year’s budget will invest a further £1.4m to expand the council’s resources to tackle homelessness by bolstering front-line capacity for the Homelessness Solutions Service, providing extra funding for the Housing Improvement Programme and for staffing and administering the Temporary Accommodation acquisitions programme, to meet the rise in demand.  

In recognition of challenging financial circumstances, Westminster City Council is proposing a 2.99% increase in the general element of the council tax and a 2% increase ringfenced to support adult social care.

The Government’s Local Government Funding settlement includes an assumption that local authorities raise the general level of Council Tax and the Adult Social Care precept by the maximum amount allowed to achieve the level of core spending power it has announced. This increase would provide £3.3m of additional funding for the council year on year.

For residents in Band D, this would result in a weekly increase of 46p, or £23.85 a year for the Westminster element, excluding the Greater London Authority precept. Westminster has the lowest Band D Council Tax in the country and currently is likely to remain the lowest if the proposed change is adopted.

To provide further support for those in greatest hardship, cabinet recently approved the continuation of the council’s 100% Council Tax Support scheme for 2024/25 which means households most in need can apply for full relief from council tax. Westminster will be one of only a handful of local authorities in London to continue to have a 100% Council Tax Support scheme in 2024/25.

Further investment is also proposed to support the delivery of the council’s Fairer Westminster priorities:

  • An additional £1m, bringing the council’s Cost of Living Support Fund to £20m which will direct important financial aid to foodbanks, charities and to residents struggling the most with high costs of food and accommodation.
  • £450k to tackle the ecological emergency in Westminster.
  • £1.2m to increase the hourly rate for social care staff by an additional £1.50 per hour, addressing low pay in the adult social care sector.
  • £1m to establish a new mobile CCTV network to address anti-social behaviour, waste and nuisance noise.
  • £750k to enhance our waste and cleansing resources and keep the city streets clean

The council’s cabinet will review the proposed budget on Monday 19 February and consider its recommendation to Full Council on Wednesday 6 March, where a final decision on adoption of the budget will be taken.

Cllr David Boothroyd, Cabinet Member for Finance and Council Reform said:

Along with other councils across the country, Westminster has to cope with higher costs putting pressure on our local services. To ensure we continue offering much-needed support to our most vulnerable residents during the cost-of-living crisis, we need to consider an increase to the general element of Council Tax.

We have seen continually rising demand for temporary accommodation, supporting children and providing adult social care. As we have no confirmation from the Government on what will happen to their Household Support Fund which ends in March, we must step in to support residents who could face further hardship.”  

Read the budget report.

Notes to editors:

  • On 22 November 2023 the Government set out its Autumn Statement. The aspects relating to local government funding were a continuation of the Government’s 2022 Autumn Statement in that no new funding was announced beyond the known increases that Government had previously advised such as the increase in Adult Social Care funding. 
  • This was followed by the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement on 18 December 2023.  The settlement represents an increase in Core Spending Power for local government of almost £4bn or 6.5% in cash terms which includes the Government assumption that authorities will take the maximum 2.99% general element Council Tax increase for 2024/25 and a full 2% increase in the adult social care precept.
  • After pressure from local government through responses to the settlement consultation Government announced a further £600m support package to help with the unprecedented challenges which the local government sector is facing. The council is yet to be advised as to how much additional funding it will receive.
  • 13,000 households in Westminster claimed for full Council Tax relief in 2023/24
  • Between the period April and January 2023/24, the council has seen a 33% increase in applications from people who are losing their Assured Shorthold Tenancy as a comparison to the same period last year.
  • Between April 2023 and January 2024, Westminster received 184 applications from people who had left Home Office accommodation with 30% of these applicants placed in temporary accommodation. By comparison, Westminster received 26 applications in the same reporting period from April 2022 – January 2023. This equates to a 608% increase this year on the number of asylum seekers presenting to services.

Published: 9 February 2024