Yesterday Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh called for a blueprint for a Conservative approach to local government – high quality services, low council tax. He rightly cited the examples set by Conservative-controlled Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea,
Westminster and Wandsworth as being models for achieving that, as did our ToryDiary piece on Conservative tax and spend policy.
Westminster Council does have one of the lowest levels of Council Tax in the country, but could it be even lower?
£2m represents 1% of Council Tax. At the end of 2006/7 Westminster had reserves of £63m – at least twice the amount you would expect a council to have if any at all – yet in early 2007 a majority of the 48 Conservative councillors voted for a 2% tax increase, as they had the year before. The Council received a windfall shortly afterwards and reviewed its decision but a majority still approved the tax increase.
At the end of 2007/8 the reserves had increased to £71m. At the start of this year the group decided to freeze the Council Tax (something even the
fledgling Conservative administration in Hounslow has
managed to do two years in a row) even though the council could technically afford to cut the tax by 2% for the next ten years. So has Westminster’s tax rate really gone as low as it can go?