New Council Tax rates announced

Rises well above inflation once again

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- Hounslow Ealing
Band A 841.45 794.43
Band B 981.69 926.83
Band C 1121.93 1059.24
Band D 1262.17 1191.64
Band E 1542.65 1456.45
Band F 1823.14 1721.26
Band G 2103.62 1986.07
Band H 2524.34 2383.28

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Council Tax for local residents will be up by around 7% this year as both Hounslow and Ealing local authorities opted for a similar rise. The above inflation rises come on top of the double digit increases seen last year.

Hounslow's rate for Band D properties was up by 6.9% and Ealing's rose by 7%

Cllr John Chatt, Leader of Hounslow Council said of the increase, �Residents told us they wanted to protect the services they value. This was one of our key priorities along with balancing the need to keep the council tax increase down as far as possible. Hounslow has good schools that continue to improve, as well as excellent libraries and recycling rates. Residents have told us that they want to see improvements to road repairs and street cleaning and we are working hard to improve those areas."

The Leader also encouraged local residents on low incomes to be sure they were claiming all of the council tax benefits and discounts they were entitled to.

Cllr Chatt said, �Up to a quarter of the borough�s residents who are eligible for council tax benefits are losing out on hundreds of pounds because they are not claiming what they are entitled to. I would encourage any on low incomes to check out whether they may be entitled to help�

Residents on Income Support, Jobseekers allowance (income based), or pension credit may be eligible. Details on or by calling 0208 583 4242.

Hounslow Council�s financial management was given the top rating by the Audit Commission in December�s CPA scores. The council has been disappointed that the grant formula again worked against the borough. They say this resulted in Hounslow again receiving a smaller increase than neighbouring boroughs.

Leader of the opposition Conservative group Peter Thompson said, "We get the same excuse every year � it�s not us, blame central government. Isn�t interesting that they always say 'central' government, when they are screwing us, rather than 'Labour' or 'our' government?"

He said that the Conservative group had put forward savings of over £1mn whereas the Council had only identified £398,000 of cost cutting since the last review and this included putting up prices for Meals on Wheels.

Cllr. Thompson said that bigger savings could be achieved by cutting down on bureaucracy, "We have too many Officers, earning good salaries just to produce more reports, more plans, more strategies. "

Hounslow conducted a consultation on service priorities and budget options by asking for the opinions of a 'representative sample' of local residents. Residents were asked their views on their service priorities and the amount they would wish to pay in council tax. In order to aid this dialogue, three budget options were considered. The views were fed into the budget making process. According to the survey more than half of those polled were happy with the way in which the Council was running the borough.

Ealing Borough increased Council tax rates by 7% to bring their cumulative rises over the last two years to the second highest in London. The Council remains committed to a customer response programme that is estimated to cost £51 million. Leader of the Council, John Cudmore said, "This is a prudent budget and it demonstrates what can be achieved when clear political leadership and high calibre financial expertise are applied to deliver the best possible deal at a time of severe financial pressures."

These figures include the GLA precept, which is taken to pay for transport, police, judicial and other services on a London wide basis.

March 10, 2004