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Council Tax, Services and Your Views

Issue: TW Mag April '14

IN MARCH THE BOROUGH Council decided to freeze Council Tax for the fifth consecutive year. This represents a saving of £698 over the last
five years.

The Council has been able to freeze Council Tax by prudent financial management, efficiency savings and income generation. Front line services have been protected and, indeed , many have been improved. The deputy leader of the council, Cllr Geoffrey Samuel also pledged to freeze Council tax again in 2015/16 despite continued reduction in central government support. Richmond receives the lowest support per head of population of any London Borough.

The Council has increased Care Services for older people and those with learning difficulties. Increased funding has also been made to voluntary organisations which provide such services as Day Centres and support for vulnerable residents.

Additional funding is also required for the 30% increase in primary school places and 19% increase in secondary school places as well as the newly created sixth forms in every secondary school. This expenditure has resulted in the fourth successive year of declining reserves which stand at their lowest level since 2003, but are in line with Council policy to keep any reserves at a prudent level.

Richmond residents will continue to have 30 minutes free parking by using the new Richmond card which is available to all Borough residents. Parking charges also continue to be frozen for the fourth successive year. I am currently supporting local businesses in Hampton Road, Strawberry Hill, to get some free short-term spaces for the convenience of their customers.

While the Government has given grants to Boroughs to assist in keeping Council Tax increases at zero Council Tax support for Councils has been reduced and will continue to decline in future years. The Council is also facing increased demands for its services especially meeting the needs of older residents. I would like to pay tribute to the Council staff who have worked to bring about many positive outcomes and improved services.

My colleagues and I are always pleased to hear residents’ views on what we are doing. The Borough also conducts its own residents’ survey. The results of the 2013 Residents Survey show a very positive picture overall, with an overwhelming majority of those surveyed (96%) satisfied with their local area and significant improvements in residents perceptions of the Council. For example, 83% of residents surveyed are now satisfied with the way the Council run things, a 6% increase and 13% above the national average. The figure was 88% in Strawberry Hill.

The Council’s initiatives have shown marked improvements including resources allocated to roads and pavements, Fair Parking policy and an 11% increase in residents agreeing that the Council takes account of residents’ views when making decisions.

Other points of interest include:
Although 91% of residents have access to the Internet, 41% still prefer to contact the Council by phone; 75% agree with freezing Council Tax. We are still slightly below the National average of residents who feel informed about the Council’ services and this is something we, as local councillors, could assist.

Cllr David Marlow
Cabinet Member for Adult Services and Housing