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Hounslow Conservative leader Councillor Peter Thompson provides this week's Constituency Matters political column.
Well it’s finally happened. Labour’s pledge to reduce Hounslow’s Council Tax is on the table.
No doubt some people will wonder what real difference 10.5p a week in their pocket will make. Others will wonder if the £0.5million it’s taken to fund this cut couldn’t have been used more effectively elsewhere. However as someone who believes in lower taxation and as spent most of his life suffering from year-after-year of eye watering increases in council tax under Labour councils, I welcome this move.
Whilst we have doubts about some aspects of the savings proposed I am delighted that Labour has finally learnt that “better services” doesn’t mean “spend more”. We Conservatives know that by driving efficiency into the organisation, services will be run smarter, cheaper and better.
However the bottom-line is that Hounslow residents will still be paying too much for their Council services next year. The Council continues to under spend their own budget by millions of pounds each year, which means residents are consistently paying more for services than they actually cost to deliver.
Furthermore the Labour administration is consistently overstating their budget problems whilst they are stashing away millions of pounds of our residents' hard-earned cash into the bank – for what purpose we don't know. Last year alone, for example, the General Fund Balance increased from £10.4m to £14.0m. In addition to this millions sit in various Improvement Funds and New Homes Funds unspent.
It’s also a bit cheeky for the Council to be taking sole credit for this in their press releases when it’s been partly funded by money from the Conservative led government who is, for the third year running, providing funding for all councils who are able to freeze or cut their tax. Also a lot of the projects that they are boasting about are being paid for by either Boris, (improvements to Hounslow Town Centre), central government (the PFI for Hounslow’s roads and highways) or were the result of decisions by the previous Council (the outsourcing of Hounslow’s libraries and leisure centre’s).
Still, credit where credit is due. Labour have taken a small step in the right direction but there remains a lot more to be done!