The first increase in council tax for eight years was one of the budget proposals agreed last night, Thursday 23rd February by the Kensington and Chelsea Cabinet. If the budget is approved by the full Council on 8th March the 1.9% increase will contribute £1.5 million to RBKC’s coffers in 2017-18, money that would otherwise have to be found from cuts to services.
Overall, RBKC must find some £8 million of efficiencies or extra income in 2017-18 in order to compensate for reductions in government grants. And 2017-18 will be the seventh consecutive year in which grants have fallen. In fact, by 2017-18 RBKC’s budget will have shrunk in real terms by about 22 per cent since 2010-11.
Tactics to avoid the worst of the austerity cuts are working. Sharing the management of services with neighbouring boroughs is now saving RBKC approximately £13 million a year, while annual income from property is expected to to be £13.8 million in 2017-18.
Despite all that, RBKC agreed last night that the strategy’s potential for yielding further income and savings is now shrinking, hence the proposal for a modest increase in council tax.
“I am very proud of the way we have maintained good quality services for our residents,” said Leader of the Council, Cllr Nick Paget-Brown. “But after seven years of austerity, we are now facing stark choices. If we are to continue delivering good services we must find some additional money; after an eight year freeze, a modest increase in council tax seems a sensible way to start.”
As well as setting a budget, the Cabinet last night also approved a £397 million capital programme of housebuilding, school improvements and other regeneration schemes.