An innovative scheme will invite Westminster’s wealthiest residents to make a voluntary contribution to help pay for local projects. The City Council intends freezing Westminster’s element of the council tax, excluding the adult social care element.
The Westminster Community Contribution is set to go ahead after a consultation found strong support for the idea.
The proposal is being put to a full meeting of the Council after a survey of residents in the highest Council Tax band – Band H – was carried out in December 2017. More than 400 people responded positively to the survey saying they would support the scheme.
Residents of the most expensive properties will be asked if they will consider voluntarily paying double the amount that they would normally contribute in Westminster’s share of the Council Tax. For 2018/19 this is £833 for Band H properties, which excludes the GLA element. However, any voluntary amount would be up to the contributor should they choose to take part.
Any money raised will be spent in three specific areas:
The City Council intends to help protect families whose finances are under pressure by freezing the amount people have to pay in Council Tax for 2018/19, with the exception of the rise in the adult social care element.
Cllr Nickie Aiken, Leader of Westminster City Council, said:
“We remain determined to help those on lowest incomes by freezing their Council Tax. We are proud of having the lowest Council Tax in the country whilst maintaining high quality services.
“The law does not allow us to raise Council Tax for just one Band. If we raise Council Tax we must do so for everyone – from the lowest to the highest Bands. The voluntary Westminster Community Contribution offers a fair way for those who want to contribute more to do so.
“Back in October 2017, I decided to act on a growing number of requests from some residents who live in the highest valued homes that they wanted to voluntarily contribute more than their existing Council Tax. I am delighted that so many people want to support the initiative in its first year.
“The outcome of our consultation reflects the kind and generous spirit of Westminster residents. It also confirmed what I had heard from people I had met on the doorstep that those in the more expensive homes are willing to contribute more to community projects. The scheme is most popular among residents of the most expensive homes.”
The initiative also has the backing of the Archbishop of York who has campaigned for a national voluntary “top up”.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said: “I congratulate Westminster Council for inviting wealthier tax payers to top up a voluntary community contribution for local services. I fully endorse their imaginative initiative. May all of us who are willing to do this be given the facility to do so. Thank you, Thank you! – You are fantabulous!”
Providing the final decision is taken to proceed, letters will be sent to Band H householders with details about the introduction of the voluntary Westminster Community Contribution. The council will stress that there is absolutely no pressure to contribute if people do not wish to do so.
The City Council has made £300m savings over 9 years whilst safeguarding high quality statutory services. Non statutory services such as the support for youth clubs have come under significant pressure.
Westminster City Council’s Cabinet will make a decision on the proposals on 19th February and a recommendation will then be brought to Full Council on 7th March for a final decision.