In Wandsworth we have a very simple and distinctive policy: to provide top-quality public services at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. For the last 3 years that policy has meant that we have kept the Council Tax at just £681.86 (including the Mayor of London's precept.) In doing so we have played our part in helping all local residents – but especially those on fixed or low incomes – to deal with the financial impact of the recession.
But we are not resting on our laurels. We know that with the Coalition Government seeking to balance the books, local authorities are coming under serious pressure to review how they spend their money. There is also an understandable demand from local residents for us to provide greater transparency on how their money is spent.
As part of our belief in continuous improvement and in innovation, we earlier this week joined Boris Johnson and a so far limited number of other local authorities in publishing all our spending over £500. The list, which is available on the council website at includes the value of every purchase and the name of the supplier. It will be updated on a monthly basis.
We want taxpayers to see how their money is being spent and to hold our decisions to account. The added scrutiny will help identify waste and point the way towards new efficiencies. We don’t think we know best, we think our residents do – their voting for 32 years of continuous Conservative control is good evidence of this!
Knowing that decisions will be put under the spotlight will make our members and officers think even harder about the value of every purchase they make. The consequences of that may sometimes be a little uncomfortable, but we are confident this will help us to continue to do what we do best and that's deliver excellent value for money.
To date, our vision – or, as it’s known to us locally, the 'Wandsworth Way’ – has identified over £200 million in annual savings to local residents.
We hope that this latest development will continue to build on the ethos which has allowed us to deliver the lowest Council Tax in the country. It’s though scrutinising every aspect of our spending that we control costs and minimise the waste that so marked the last government, and that we are committed to ending.