Cllr Guy Senior is the Cabinet Member for Finance on Wandsworth Council.
We’ve just set our Council Tax here in Wandsworth. It averages at just over £772, which is the lowest average in the country for the 20th consecutive year. In fact it is the lowest by £70 and over £600 lower than neighbouring Labour boroughs like Lambeth – that’s about £12 a week less.
Over the last 10 years, our share of the council tax bill has gone up by only six per cent but London’s Labour Mayor has increased his share by over five per cent in this year alone.
At the same time, we are one of the few councils in the UK to retain weekly refuse service and we do not impose green waste charges. Instead of closing libraries, like some councils, we are actually rebuilding four of them with much better facilities – although our local Labour Group voted against two of these. We also have a social care re-enablement service that helps restore confidence in people with health issues of all natures and has been ranked by the Care Quality Commission as one of the best of its kind.
So how do we do it? Part of it is a relentless drive on efficiency which has been part of our DNA for years. It is things like contracting our services – but still ensuring good standards. It’s also about sharing staff with Richmond Council and other joint ventures, which saves our council taxpayers £11,000,000 a year.
Is it all about cost saving? No. We have a proud record of other achievements too. We have 20,000 new homes coming in Nine Elms, with 25,000 new jobs and the first new tube station in Wandsworth for 90 years (paid for by developers). We have also just announced a £15 million addition to our capital programme to further improve our local schools, parks and roads.
We also want people to get on in life, so we now have one of the biggest council-funded housing programmes in the country, with 1,000 new homes of which 60 per cent will be for people on average or low incomes to rent (or most importantly) to buy. Our Labour Group originally voted against this too before coming to common sense.
Our vision is simple and we have delivered it over many years. Low council tax, good standards, and a place for local people to get on in life.