Kingston’s independent external auditors gave strong support to the Conservatives’ financial management of the council. At a recent Audit Committee, they said that we had ‘proper arrangements in all significant respects’ to deliver value for money. Our 2018/19 budget gave them no doubts as to the council’s ability to function.
That’s why it’s very disappointing that the Lib Dems continue to share the untrue idea that our borough’s finances were in difficulty and “heading for bankruptcy”. It’s a complete fiction, made up purely to hide their own incompetence.
When the Conservatives took over Kingston Council from the Lib Dems in 2014, it was in a financial mess. Low productivity and lack of respect for taxpayers’ money over many years led to the highest council tax in London.
It was a big job to turn it around. We did so by focusing on improving front-line services while keeping the council tax burden as low as possible for hard-working residents. We recruited a dynamic chief executive to drive through the changes needed to ensure a council fit for the future. Unfortunately, the Lib Dems’ first action was to remove her at a cost to the public of £310,000.
During the time the Conservatives ran the council we made savings of £54m in wasted spending. Without doing this we would have had to put up council tax by some 60% – just to stand still. Through careful management of the council budget we were able to make these savings. We still managed to invest in parks and playgrounds, plant over 1,000 trees, increase investment in road and pavement repairs and improve recycling rates across the borough.
Despite inheriting the highest council tax in London, with the Lib Dems routinely increasing it year-in, year-out, we were able to freeze council tax three out of our four years in office. All while delivering improved services and taxpayer value for money.
Past behaviour predicts future behaviour; the Lib Dems will repeat their own mistakes. Now they run the council, there is a risk is that the Lib Dems will undo the improvements we made. They will put off making difficult decisions, waste funds to their vanity projects and reduce the focus on value for money.
We are very concerned that, given the LibDem’s poor record, crucial front-line services will suffer under their mismanagement. Under their previous regime, they increased our council tax until it was the highest in London; we fear the new administration will pick up where they left off.