Hammersmith and Fulham Council plans to freeze council tax for the 2016/17 financial year, it has announced.
It says “radical” ways of setting budgets and saving money will mean residents will not have to dig deeper into their pockets.
And despite the freeze it will still be able to run frontline services, the Labour authority said, after publishing its budget proposals for 2016/17.
It means the charge for a Band D property remains at £727.81, not including the an extra levy for the Greater London Authority which has yet to be set.
But the Conservative opposition said Labour had broken one of its key election promises to reduce tax.
H&F say the Chancellor George Osborne proposed that councils increase council tax by two per cent this year, and government projections for H&F’s finances included such an increase.
But the council’s Labour leader Stephen Cowan said: “We are rejecting the government’s suggestion that we raise council tax this year. Instead, we have introduced new and radical ways of setting budgets and achieving smarter savings.
“This has enabled us to defend Charing Cross Hospital , freeze council tax, pay for record numbers of police on local streets and protect frontline services such as refuse collection and street cleaning.
“Many of our residents are already struggling to make ends meet. Austerity is a very real thing for them, especially for our older and disabled residents – the very people who would have been hit hardest by council tax rises.
“In H&F we’ve abolished home care charges. We’re continuing to cover the cost of the Independent Living Allowance. And we’ve cut all sorts of other fees and charges to our residents. We’ve done that to ease the cost of living for people in H&F and we’re not going to undo all that good work just because the Chancellor suggests it.”
The council’s government grant has been slashed by £66 million since 2010 and it has to make another £15m of savings this year.
Recent savings include:
- cutting £350,000 previously spent on council propaganda
- cutting senior management costs by £600,000 in the last 18 months
- cutting councillor allowances by 10%
- renegotiating contracts with suppliers and developers to get better deals
- reducing office costs and improving the use of IT systems
The Labour leader continued: “Eye-watering levels of cuts in our government grant have meant we have had to look elsewhere for the funds we need to keep children safe from abuse, to look after vulnerable residents and to keep the streets clean.
“We’ve had some major successes in re-negotiating planning deals with developers. That’s given us an extra £51m with considerably more in the pipeline and, while the majority of this will go towards building new affordable homes, these funds will also be used to provide physical and social infrastructure and environmental improvements and thereby releases other funding to protect services.”
Tory group leader Greg Smith said Labour had let down residents by breaking one of their key election promises to cut council tax. “Their budget proposal is also fundamentally dishonest, as on the one hand Labour attack the reduction in central government grants that ensure the country only spends what it can afford, yet on the other hand reject the government’s offer to councils to raise council tax by 2% to fund social care. They can’t have it both ways,” he said.
He criticised money spent by the council on housing and health commissions and added: “It’s time Labour delivered a budget that delivers on the services residents actually want.”
The proposed net expenditure budget for H&F for 2016/17 is £153.5m.