Conservative-led Hillingdon Council say they've delivered a "remarkable and amazing" budget for the next financial year, despite government cuts.
Council tax for residents in the borough has been frozen for the eighth year in a row, and over 65s who have benefited from the freeze for ten years will see this perk continued until 2019 at the earliest.
The budget was set after a unanimous vote by all members on Thursday, February 25.
Cllr Ray Puddifoot , Leader of the Council, said: "Whilst those around us have closed down facilities, cut services and charged their residents more for basic services - in Hillingdon we have not done so - in fact, in most cases we have done the reverse - building new facilities and improving services and at the same time building up financial reserves to help with the challenges that lay ahead of us.
"So, given that we already do all of that and with a general fund savings target of £13.3 million for 2016/17, what does next year look like for Hillingdon? Frankly it looks amazing."
Cllr Puddifoot told the budget meeting that Hillingdon had seen a reduction in central government funding £73million since 2010/11 but said there are no planned service cuts or facility closures.
The council have promised a lot of projects to look forward to in future, including:
- £25,000 each for support for carers and domestic violence prevention
- £100,000 for planning enforcement
- £40,000 for environmental enforcement
- £140,000 for a museum curator and visitors centre manager
- £700,000 held in reserve for priority growth that emerges in the year
- £400,000 for fighting HS2 and third runway at Heathrow Airport
- £47 million for new schools programmes
- £2 million to build the first of three new youth centres
- £2.5 million in Hayes Town Centre improvements
- £4 million in road and pavement resurfacing
- £700,000 for bowls club refurbishment
- £950,000 to rebuild Bessingby Football and Boxing Club
- £3.6 million for a state-of-the-art visitor and education centre at the Battle of Britain Bunker
- £5 million as the first tranche of £44 million to build a 1,400 to 1,600 seat theatre in Uxbridge
- £1.6 million of the £5 million to be spent providing a museum for the borough
- £100,000 for a new mobile library
- £250,000 as part of a ??1.25 million programme on children's playground upgrades
- £2 million for refurbishment work in the Civic Centre
- £1 million, in addition to Chrysalis Funding, for environmental and residential initiatives
- £2.6 million for CCTV to enforce parking restrictions outside every school in the borough
- £3 million of £5.5 million to be spent over the next two years to replace the lamps in every one of the nearly 24,000 lamp posts in the borough with LED lamps.
Not that remarkable
But the Labour opposition say there's "nothing particularly remarkable" about the Tory budget as council tax was one of the highest in London before the freeze.
Peter Curling, a Labour Townfield ward councillor said: "At the January Council meeting, Hillingdon's Conservative administration pushed through a change to the Council Tax Reduction scheme (previously called Council Tax Benefit) which will mean that the least well off and most vulnerable families in Hillingdon, will see an increase of upto 25%.
"So when the Leader of the Council claims to be freezing the Council Tax for everyone, thats not exactly the reality of the situation.
"As usual the Tories are making those that can least afford it pay more, so that everyone else doesn't have to."
The opposition asked that any rise to the Councillors allowances should be given to the Mayor's charity, but despite rejection by the Conservatives, the Labour group vow to donate their rise allowances for the year.
Other amendments that were proposed by the Labour group were:
- To reverse the proposed cuts described as zero based budget review of Children's Centre expenditure
- To reverse the proposed cuts described as a review of the Children's Centres delivery model
- To amend the proposed capital programme to include the delivery of 400 new general needs council homes
- To reduce the budget spent on Hillingdon People by publishing it four times a year rather than the current six
- To reduce the Unallocated Priority growth figure
- To reduce the Special responsibility allowances for Cabinet Members by 20%
Cllr Puddifoot put our a reassurance that Hillingdon has nearly £50million in reserves and balances and a strong Housing Revenue Capital Account (HRA).
He added: "It takes strong financial management to achieve what we have in both the General Funds and the HRA and we do that all day, every day. Our programme of business improvement delivery, service transformation and zero based budgeting have set us apart from other councils.
"What we have achieved and continue to achieve in Hillingdon in the current economic climate is remarkable and whilst we do not underestimate the financial challenges that we as a council and a country still have to deal with - in Hillingdon, the Conservative administration has a proven record of management and financial ability that enables us to continue to put residents first."