|Tax rise to pay for 'cleaner, greener safer' Ealing|
Opposition refuse to back budget claiming Labour 'mismanagement'
At a council meeting held on Tuesday 7th March next year's Council Tax level was formally set. The increase was finalise at 4.7% with much of the rise accounted for by a 13% increase in the portion set by London's Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Councillor Leo Thomson, leader of the council, said, “We will deliver a cleaner, greener and safer borough for our residents knowing we have kept the council tax rise as low as possible."
She emphasised the boost to spending on 'envirocrime' Ealing Council is to pump almost £3 million of extra cash into tackling graffiti and anti-social behaviour. Residents are promised more teams clearing graffiti, more fly-tipped rubbish being removed and stronger, zero tolerance enforcement of new laws designed to help keep the borough cleaner, greener and safer.
Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the tax level stating that a number of Lib Dem controlled London councils have frozen their their part of the overall council tax bill.
They objected to the above inflation rise which was also above the national council tax average rise of 4% They were also unhappy about the budgetting of funds to be spent on the West London tram and the reduction in the number of area committees. They expressed a lack of confidence in the management of the Council's 'Response' programme the failure of which would undermine the borough's financial plans. They say the level of staff sickness at the Council is still too high and leads to extra expense to hire agency staff.
The issue of the level of borrowing at the Council was also a concern for the opposition with the Liberal Democrats pointing out that an independent audit had claimed that the Council's level of borrowing was at breaking point. The Council have been accused by the opposition of borrowing heavily in advance of the election to ensure that the Council Tax rise was not too high.
Cllr Andrew Mitchell, Southfield ward councillor, said “Lib Dems and local people have no confidence in the Council to spend their hard earned money. Lib Dems don’t want to see anymore money wasted on a botched tram scheme. Lib Dem run councils in London have managed to freeze the level of council tax. While Labour is a story of incompetence, weak leadership and mismanagement.”
He said the Lib Dems would boost local democracy and increase the number of area committee meetings from 4 to 8.
Ealing Conservatives claim to have identified just over £1.8 million of savings to be made by restraining the growth in central bureaucracy, scaling back the Response programme and reducing the frequency of the Council’s propaganda news sheet, ‘Around Ealing’.
Conservative Finance Spokesman, Cllr Barbara Yerolemou said, “The cumulative effect of Labour in Ealing has been a 48% in Council tax over just four years. Meanwhile our streets are rated by the Audit Commission as amongst the dirtiest in London, graffiti is on the rise and many residents do not feel safe walking the streets. Our alternative budget addresses these concerns by cutting the rampant growth in central bureaucracy within the Council and focusing on better frontline services at an affordable cost."
The decision by the Council means the annual increase for a band D property will be £58.80 – taking it to a total of £1,309.42.
Councillor Martin Beecroft, cabinet member for finance and performance, said: “I am delighted to be able to confirm we have saved £19m through becoming more efficient. This has allowed us to put more money into frontline services and also strengthen our financial position by putting £2m into the council’s reserves.”
The Council claim they can make these savings by being managed and run more efficiently, for example by using less agency staff. This has allow extra money to be given to the budget of key departments, for instance £3.2 million has gone to adult social services, £2.6 million on children and families and £650,000 for parks and open spaces.
March 9, 2006