I have written before about the failings of the incumbent Labour Mayor of Lewisham. I am delighted to see that the Conservative challenger pub landlord Simon Nundy is offering a clear change of direction promising to cut the Council tax by 5% in his first year.

He says:

In the last 8 years Council Tax in Lewisham has gone up nearly 55% with nothing to show for it, that’s two and a half times inflation. Meanwhile nearby Conservative led Wandsworth Council charges half as much and consistently manages to deliver better services.

According to The Audit Commission “Wandsworth is a business-like and consistently high-performing council. It is very successful at delivering a wide range of high quality services at low cost.” For example in Lewisham only 40% of the council’s housing stock meets Decent Homes standards – in Wandsworth the figure is 100%. When the Conservatives took over Wandsworth they had the 3rd highest Council Tax in London – now it’s the lowest.

Wandsworth is an inner city South London Borough with all the same social problems as Labour run Lewisham and yet they manage to do so much more for so much less.

Lewisham Council spent nearly £1 billion last year and yet only £88 million of that was raised from council tax. 1% efficiency savings would not only pay for a 5% council tax cut but would leave millions more to reduce debt and improve the quality of services. At a time when businesses have had to cut back, when families have had to tighten belts, when young people have been unable to find work, why is it that the council hasn’t felt the need to rein in its excessive spending?

Below are just a few of the ways we could cut council tax waste without harming frontline services and as Boris discovered when he audited the accounts of Ken Livingstone’s profligate City Hall, this
is sure to be the tip of the iceberg. If all this waste and inefficiency were brought under control, we could not only cut council tax and start to repay years of debt but also spend wisely on making
Lewisham a cleaner, safer and more prosperous place to live for everyone.

We can’t go on like this, to cut waste I would:

  • Ensure efficient collection of council tax
  • Slash the marketing and PR budget by two thirds
  • Impose an immediate freeze on hiring new bureaucrats
  • Order a forensic audit of spending across all departments
  • Freeze the Mayor’s salary and all councillor’s allowances
  • Review all external training, junkets and expenses
  • Repay debt and reduce the burden on the next generation
  • Employ quality permanent staff directly and save millions

 I’ll spend taxpayers’ money as if it was my own and not authorise a penny that isn’t good value for money.

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