Double congratulations to the new Conservative Council for Richmond upon Thames. They have started putting spending online for payments to suppliers over £500. They have also announced there will be a Council Tax freeze next year.
Cllr Nicholas True, Leader of Richmond Council says:
“We promised we would do this – now we are fulfilling that promise. At a time when trust in public figures is low, and local government in particular faces huge financial challenges, this is an important signal from our Council that we will be honest with local people, be held to account for our actions and spend every penny of Council Tax payers’ money as carefully as if it was our own.
“We are committed to ending Council secrecy. There is nothing to fear in openness. It is the people’s money – they should see how it is spent – and they may well be able to help us use it better. I appeal to every citizen who thinks their money is being wasted to let our Finance Cabinet Member, Cllr Samuel, who is leading our waste-busting drive, know about it. This new information service will help local people do that.”
“Much spending is done under delegated powers. I believe Council officers are generally very careful with public money, but publishing every expenditure item over £500 will challenge us all to think more carefully about what spending we authorise, knowing it will be up for public scrutiny and very easy to find on our website."
On the Council Tax freeze for next year, Deputy Leader Cllr Geoffrey Samuel points out this will be a challenge given Government grant cuts of over £1.5 million. He says:
“Residents will now be given more certainty in their own financial affairs by knowing at this early stage how much their Council Tax bills will be.
“We already spend residents’ money very, very carefully, but the Council’s decision means back office work will have to be reviewed with a fine tooth comb to drag out all possible savings. Equally we will look at front line services to see if they can be provided in a more efficient way. I want residents to know this is being done. When we say waste and bureaucracy will be removed from the Council, we mean it.
“The Government has said it will work with Councils to freeze bills this year and we intend to take advantage of that.”