Westminster Labour Councillors have launched a 5 Point Plan which could raise millions of pounds for public services from wealthy residents who currently pay the lowest Council Tax in the UK and who want to pay more to resurrect local public services.
Currently, the most any Westminster resident pays in Council Tax is £1,376 a year, even though very many properties in Belgravia, Knightsbridge, St John’s Wood and elsewhere are worth many millions of pounds and are owned by some of the richest people in the world. At the same time, Government cuts have reduced the Council’s budget by 48% over the past 7 years.
Many wealthy Westminster residents tell us that they are appalled at the disintegration of local public services as the Government’s austerity cuts have devastated vital services which were previously taken for granted. For example, last year Westminster Conservatives axed its financial support for local youth services, forcing youth clubs to reduce their services to some of the most vulnerable young people in Paddington, Church Street and Pimlico.
There is general cross-party support in Westminster for the introduction of additional higher end Council Tax Bands to require the wealthiest residents to make a bigger financial contribution. However, the introduction of extra Council Tax Bands will require Government legislation and will take time.
Labour’s 5 point plan to raise extra money from voluntary contributions from residents is:
- The Council would work closely with Westminster’s voluntary sector to identify five projects each year which would receive the voluntary contributions, for example, education, youth services, older people, mental health or community safety.
- All the extra money raised would be allocated to the five specific projects
- The Council would appoint a board composed of independent people from outside the Council whose job it would be to ensure that all the money is used on the five selected projects and not on mainstream Council services.
- The Council would write to every G and H Band Council Tax payer in Westminster with details of the five projects to which they can contribute. They can contribute to just one project or spread their contribution across a number of projects by completing a simple direct debit form.
- Council Tax payers on lower bands would also be able to contribute. No one would be turned away. No contribution, however small, would be refused.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour Business, Planning and Public Realm spokesperson, who initially raised this initiative at the Council’s 2014 budget meeting, said:
“Many better-off residents have been telling us for many years that they would willingly pay more to restore some of the lost public services. We believe that the key to success is to earmark all the extra money for specific projects, say education, young people, older people, mental health or community safety. That, and providing a simple way for people to contribute more on top of their usual Council Tax contributions, could unleash a wave of local generosity from many residents who believe that they should be making a bigger financial contribution to their local community’s well-being.”