London boroughs planning council tax increase

By Susana Mendonça
BBC Radio London political reporter

  • Published
Rubbish on road
Image caption,
Havering Council says it spends almost £1m a year clearing up fly-tipping

Most of London's boroughs are planning to increase council tax on top of raising money for social care.

Research by BBC Radio London has revealed that 28 boroughs out of the 33 intend to add up to 3% to help pay for adult social care.

But 24 of those local authorities will also add on between 1% and 1.99% to the council's part of the tax to pay for other council services.

And 13 of those boroughs are opting for the maximum increase allowed of 4.99%.

They include Labour-run Camden where council tax on a Band D property will rise by an average of £1.04 a week, and the Conservative-run Royal Borough of Kingston, which will see it increase by £1.35 a week.

Havering is planning an increase of 3.5% for the social care precept and core council tax combined - which will also add an additional 1.04p a week onto a Band D council tax bill.

The north-east London borough says it has mounting budget pressures. It now spends almost £1m a year on clearing up fly-tipping alone, when two years ago that cost was £400,000.

Image source, Roger Ramsey
Image caption,
Councillor Roger Ramsey said Havering Council had been "put in a very difficult position"

It also has a growing school-aged and elderly population which is adding to its costs.

The leader of Havering Council, Conservative Councillor Roger Ramsey, said: "We built into our budget a £2m increase both for elderly adults and for children's services and this year, even with that, we overspent by £2m in each.

"What with that and the reduction in our government grant of £8m, we are put in a very difficult position."

Professor Tony Travers of the London School of Economics said: "I think what we're witnessing this coming year is councils being encouraged by the government to push up council tax a bit to pay for social care, and deciding that that gives them cover to push up their own share of the council tax within the rules as much as they can because their own budgets are under pressure anyway."

Image caption,
Sir Robin Wales said the Newham Council was trying a different approach to social care

But a spokesperson for the Department for Communities & Local Government said: "Whilst local authorities - like all public bodies - have had to find efficiency savings, our historic four year funding settlement gives them the certainty they need to plan ahead with almost £200bn available to provide the services that local people want."

While most London boroughs will raise council tax this year, four of them intend to freeze it.

They include the City of London, Hammersmith & Fulham (Lab), Hillingdon (Con) and Newham (Lab).

Newham said it had been able to freeze council tax thanks to efficiency measures, like turning some council services into small businesses.

The Shared Lives service, for example, is a not-for-profit business run by former council staff that matches vulnerable people with carers who they move in with.

As well as saving cash, those behind the idea claimed it made it less likely vulnerable people would end up back in the care system in the future, therefore reducing the pressure on the council's adult social care system.

Council taxpayers in every borough - including those that intend to freeze council tax - will see a small increase in their bills because the mayor of London will increase City Hall's share to help pay for policing.

It will add 8p a week onto the average band D council tax bill across London.