Following a lengthy debate in York House last night, Richmond Council has agreed that Council Tax will not increase for the coming year.
Following one of the worst Provisional Local Government Settlements in history, initial proposals were that, after allowing for a reduction in the GLA element of Council Tax, the overall Council Tax rate would still need to increase.
However, following a recent announcement from the Government that those councils hit hardest by the cuts to central government funding would be eligible for a transitional grant, Richmond Council received an additional £7.5m over the next three years.
Thanks to this last minute funding and the reduction in the charge from the Mayor of London, it was agreed that Council Tax will not increase for 2016/17.
Even though the Council is freezing the Council Tax, the Council is implementing the new Social Care Precept, equivalent to 2% of Council Tax, as allowed by the Government. This funding will help limit savings required from Adult Social Care and contribute towards programmes and initiatives that support the borough’s most vulnerable residents.
Cllr Geoffrey Samuel, Deputy Leader of Richmond Council and Cabinet Member for Finance, said:
“I am pleased to announce that once again we will not be raising the Council Tax. This is good news for all our residents.
“Since December, we have been lobbying the Government over the disproportionate impact of the settlement on Richmond. I welcome the news that the Government has listened to some of the criticisms levelled by Councils and recognisedthe need for help for the worst-affected councils.
“Thanks to this funding Council Tax will again not increase this year, but I must sound a note of caution, that this extra funding is only temporary and hence we must continue our efforts to be ever more efficient.
“In addition to freezing the Council Tax, we are also investing in those key priorities that residents have told us are important. We have a hugely ambitious education programme. We are expanding our primary schools, creating two new secondary schools, introduced sixth forms and we are rebuilding our special schools.
“Again, we have committed funding for pavement and highway repairs. We will continue a process of public consultation towards new developments in Ham and Twickenham. We will also continue to roll out our pioneering Village Planning programme.
“We have managed to do this despite further significant cuts in Government funding.
“Over the past few years we have had an intensive efficiency programme, which has already generated more than £39.7m of savings. If we continue to have our funding slashed by Central Government this approach is not sustainable forever. Further savings must be made whilst maintaining or improving the services that residents tell us they value the most.”
At the Council meeting, Cllr Samuel reiterated that there were five objectives to the budget:
- Expenditure and taxation controlled
- Borrowing only for investment
- Support for vulnerable and elderly
- Investment in schools
- Money spent on parks, open spaces and ‘street scene’
— from a Richmond Council press release – 2 March 2016