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posted 2 Feb 2011, 11:06 by Unknown user   [ updated 2 Feb 2011, 11:09 ]

Here's something for Surrey County Council to live up to. A Real Reduction in Taxes - while investing more in what matters - our vulnerable people.


Well done to the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, who today announced that they are cutting council tax for the second year in a row.   As part of the Spending Review the Government promised to financially assist councils that froze council tax rates, it’s superb that RBWM have gone one step further and cut them.  Locals will benefit from a 0.5 per cent reduction, which follows a 4 per cent reduction in 2010.  Residents of RBWM will soon be paying the lowest Band D council tax in the country outside London.
It might not sound like a big reduction, but after a larger council tax cut last year it shows that it is possible and affordable to lower council tax.  Across the UK council tax has almost doubled in the last decade (in RBWM it’s gone down 12 per cent in real terms).  Constant hikes, often with no corresponding improvements in services, have left many residents feeling disillusioned.  This cannot go on and it is time for councils to look at how they can do “more for less” as Eric Pickles put it.  At a time when many household budgets are under pressure it is crucial that councils do all they can to ease  the burden on families who are struggling with the rising costs of living.  Cutting council tax is a start.
Councillor Richard Kellaway said RBWM achieved the reduction by finding “better ways of working rather than making cuts to services”.  Councillor David Burbage remarked that there were “long-term plans for changing the way the council works to increase efficiency”, meaning they will “make every penny count in all areas”.  He added that they had found £9m in savings too:
“We have achieved the reduction by finding over £9m of savings from continuing our restructuring, renegotiating contracts, removal of parts of the previous Labour Governments’ grants that have become un-ringfenced, starting to share more services across our authority boundaries, cheaper procurement, externalisation of services, reducing spending on speed cameras (but not entirely! EB), cheaper communications costs and many other savings across the piece.”
The way some councils have carried on recently, you’d think that Windsor and Maidenhead had swung the axe erratically, leaving misery in their wake just to cut tax. But they haven’t.  According to Cllr Burbage, they’re putting over £1 million more into their child safeguarding budget; £1.7 million extra into adult social care; RBWM are not closing libraries; and they’re not reducing bin collections. Spending decisions will of course vary from council to council, but this shows that with some hard work and prioritisation there is scope for cutting out waste, becoming more efficient and cutting council tax. Hopefully other councils will follow suit in the coming months.

Thanks are due to the Tax Payers Alliance for this article.