A Budget for all Kingstonians: Kingston Council freezes Council Tax
Kingston Council is proposing a budget that invests in services but freezes council tax for 2018/19. This budget will support local residents and communities as they cope with ever increasing living costs and embrace a new era of the council being financially independent of Government.
For almost a decade, the central government grant that helps pay for some of the council's services has reduced year on year. From April 2018, Kingston will no longer receive any general revenue funding from the Government and will have to independently fund all of the services it provides to residents using income from council tax, business rates, charges and new ways of working.
Cllr Kevin Davis, Leader of the Council said,
We know that council tax has become an increasing part of household bills and in times of rising costs we need to give something back to Kingstonians to support them. We also need to ensure our services meet residents expectations.
Since 2014, there have been some common budget themes: responding to the growth in population; tackling the significant reduction in government funding; and reshaping the council and how it responds to and works with its residents. This budget moves further than ever in addressing those issues. As part of reshaping the council we will be investing in services but also removing further costs of over £20 million this year. In four years, we will have made efficiency saving of just under £57m¹. Freezing council tax is itself a real terms cut when inflation is running at 3%.
Cllr David Glasspool, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Treasury at Kingston Council, added,
While we do have to make significant savings as we reshape our council and our budget, we are also including an additional £10 million to help those who are most vulnerable - our adults and looked after children - in our budget proposals. We are investing nearly £3.6m extra in caring for adults with learning disabilities and older residents, helping to keep them in their own homes or out of hospital when we can. For those who can no longer be cared for in their home, we are also proposing to build a new care home. We are also investing in property and assets to meet the future needs of our communities.
But we’re still working under very challenging circumstances and we need to look at new ways to generate income and deliver more, collaboratively with others, for less.
One of our newest income streams for Kingston is an increase in business rates. Not only are we attracting new businesses but since 2014 we have been lobbying central Government to give us more control over business rates. We have now negotiated a deal that will see more income coming into Kingston. By taking part in the London Business Rates pooling pilot², we are giving up the last year of our government grant, which has been declining for some time, in favour of keeping 100% of the growth of our business rates. This means we become independent of central government sooner and will gain a share of growth from across the capital.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Kevin Davis concluded,
There is a huge opportunity for us here. Being an independently funded council will mean we are in charge of our own destiny, we can make our own choices and will have far greater flexibility for the borough freeing us from being dictated to by government. And with new income streams and our commitment to build much needed new homes that increase our council tax base, we will continue in future years to invest in services and improve the quality of life for us all.
In reshaping the council we recognise the need to change the way it works for residents. This will be a journey of cultural change internally as well as reshaping our engagement with residents. We want our council to be less paternalistic and one that “does things with residents, not too residents”. We especially want to embed the notion of an ‘enabling council’ that supports the community to support itself. To do this we need a profound shift in the way services are delivered. So we must reinvent and reshape the council to connect better with residents and help them to live successful, independent lives in the community. This is something we believe important in an increasingly isolated world.
This is a budget that improves our services, reshapes our council and gives something back to the residents of Kingston. We believe this sets the council direction towards a future that works harder to respond to residents, their changing needs and the pace of growth of our borough. This is a budget for all Kingstonians.
A final decision on 2018/19 council tax rates will be made at a council meeting on 27 February.