PEOPLE living in Hammersmith and Fulham will pay the third lowest council tax in the country, after councillors agreed this year’s budget.
At a full meeting of H&F Council on Wednesday last week, members of the Conservative administration and Labour opposition debated the budget, including a council tax reduction of three per cent, cuts to the meals on wheels service and an increase in sports pitch fees.
Leader of the council Nick Botterill said he was immensely proud to be putting money back into residents’ pockets, as the council tax bill for a band D home will fall by £23.44, to £757.90.
Addressing the council chamber, he said: “It gives me great pleasure to stand here and present, yet again, a reduction in council tax – for an unprecedented sixth year out of seven. I’m immensely pleased that this has been done on our watch.
“Hammersmith and Fulham is the UK’s low tax borough – and that is now official. A radical revolution has seen the council transformed from a cumbersome and bureaucratic place into a lean and dynamic organisation.
“Our parks have never been greener, our streets are cleaner, our schools have never performed better and residents are noticing the improvements.
“While other household costs continue to rise and pile pressure on families we have strived to leave more of our residents’ hard-earned cash in their pockets.”
Opposition councillors claimed the drop in council tax masked stealth taxes, such as a five per cent increase for meals on wheels users and for anyone using sports pitches – a rise of about £2 an hour for five-a-side pitches and £3 an hour for netball courts.
The council also came under fire for distributing leaflets saying it had saved Charing Cross Hospital from closure. These were produced after the authority brokered a deal with health chiefs to secure the hospital’s future despite plans to shut A&E units at Charing Cross and Hammersmith Hospitals.
Newly elected Labour councillor for Wormholt and White City ward, Max Schmid, said: “The reduction in council tax is contradicted by stealth taxes for residents. More and more of the residents who I have met and spoken to are not satisfied with the deal they are getting.
“I met a 70-year-old woman who told me that since 2006, the charges for her meals on wheels have gone up higher than inflation, while millions of pounds have been spent on spin and expensive, glossy leaflets.
“With massive cuts in the budget and two hospitals betrayed, the propaganda budget seems to be the only one that the council is willing to protect.”
Conservatives said the increase in pitch fees was in line with standard rises.