Setting the Council’s annual budget and council tax level is always a big decision and this year has been no different. With the Tory government continuing to slash the revenue support grant Ealing Council receives the relentless cuts to our budgets carries on unabated. By 2020 we will have seen £180m cut from our budgets in the decade beginning in 2010 – a reduction of over 50%.
This year’s decisions about council tax has been complicated by the government allowing Council’s the option of putting up council tax by 2% specifically to fund adult social care. This would amount to £2.3m and when compared to the £18m cut to our revenue support grant shows that the government is doing us no favours.
After a lot of careful consideration and deliberation we have made the decision to freeze council tax for the eighth consecutive year. Let me explain why.
Ealing’s economy is growing and the amount of money that we collect in council tax from the new homes built is growing and the amount of business rates that we collect from new businesses is growing also. As a Council we have always taken a very proactive stance to growing our local economy and being ‘open for business’. This stance is now beginning to pay dividends for the Council’s finances.
It will not take away all the impacts of the government’s cuts but it does mean that we are able to freeze our council tax again and put extra money into care for the elderly more than equivalent to the £2.8m we would have raised if we had done what the government wanted and raised council tax by 2%.
Council tax is regressive and freezing it again will especially help those on low pay. Ealing has 25% of its residents on low pay and over the 8 years we have frozen council tax this will have put over £1,000 back into their and every council tax payers pockets. Along with offering local businesses a business rate discount if they pay their employees the Living Wage we believe this is the right thing to do.