Hounslow Council leader Jagdish Sharma outlines how his Labour administration is helping residents in his latest Constituency Matters column for the Chronicle.
At a time of year when many families are under the most financial pressure, having had the bills from Christmas through, it is good to be able to offer a little extra help to hard-pressed families and individuals.
At a time when welfare reforms are about to hit home – affecting some of our most vulnerable residents hardest – that extra help is even more important.
This week, the council announced its intention to reduce council tax by half a per cent, following a six-year freeze, a record for an outer London borough. Along with the reduction in tax from the GLA, it will mean a little over £9 a year extra for a family in a band D home. Combined with the effect of the freeze in tax, and taking inflation into account, residents will have saved over £200.
We haven’t achieved the decrease at the expense of services though. We’ve protected frontline services wherever possible, and while we’ve made some cuts, these have been in areas which don’t directly impact on residents.
The council’s proposals for the coming financial year also include savings of £12.5 million alongside investment plans.
Just like our pledge to deliver a cut in council tax, we are continuing our war on waste. We all want the council to be leaner and more efficient, but at the same time, we are investing money in the services which really matter.
So we are proposing over £2million extra investment in services in 2013/14. New contracts like Hounslow Highways are already delivering better services and a better borough. And before anyone asks, our libraries and leisure centres are safe from the axe. There will be no closures.
But the challenges remain – huge pressures on social housing, the impacts of welfare reform, and keeping our local economy as buoyant as possible. So, the news is good on council tax. But at the back of my mind is the fact that local government finances remain extremely uncertain.
Councils are the highest performing part of the public sector – I hope that Mr Cameron focuses a little more on getting Whitehall’s house in order before they consider taking any more money from efficient local authorities.
That would be a boost for everyone in Hounslow.
Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:
"Voters in Croydon, Rotherham and Middlesbrough have put their faith in a One Nation Labour Party standing up for young people trying to find work and standing up for people whose living standards are being squeezed.
"We know we have lots of work still to do to win back trust. As Sarah Champion, Andy McDonald, and Steve Reed start work for their constituents in Westminster, Labour will be taking the battle to rebuild our country as One Nation to every corner of Britain, offering a real alternative to this out of touch Tory-led Government that is failing to deliver for working people."
The RCN’s report reveals 28,521 posts have been dumped over the 30 months the Government has been in power – more than 30 a day
More than 30 NHS staff have been axed every day since the Tory-led coalition took office.
The shocking figures are in a report published today which shows 61,000 jobs are at risk or have already been cut since May 2010.
Ministers last night insisted the NHS was not in turmoil.
But the Royal College of Nursing, which wrote the report, warned the service is “sleepwalking into crisis”.
Britain’s top nurse Peter Carter said: “The Government’s consistent rhetoric has been that frontline posts and services are being protected.
"Sadly, that is simply not the case.”
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham added: “The truth is that this Government has de-stabilised the NHS with a re-organisation nobody wanted and two years of real-terms spending cuts.
"It has proved toxic for the NHS and left it in a critical condition.”
The RCN’s Frontline First report reveals 28,521 posts have been dumped over the 30 months the Government has been in power – more than 30 a day.
It warns another 32,755 nurses, midwives, health visitors, support and admin staff are now at risk.
But Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter last night hit back: “To say that the NHS is in crisis is scaremongering.
“This Government fully supports the NHS and will put an extra £12.5billion into services by 2015.”
Our safety and security is at risk as a result of cuts to emergency services being pushed through by the Conservatives in the key vital services – the police, fire brigade, ambulance service and A&Es.
The cuts are going too far and too fast. The millions of pounds being taken from the budgets of the NHS, the Met police and the London Fire Service will inevitably endanger families and communities across the capital.
Help put pressure on London Mayor Boris Johnson by signing up to our 999SOS campaign. With rumours in every borough about closures to police stations, cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Teams and front-line cuts to the fire service Boris Johnson is refusing to back down or own up to the scale of the cuts.
Boris Johnson is trying to avoid taking the blame for his cuts to the Police and FIre Brigade and refusing to stand up for Londoners on the NHS.
Brentford & Isleworth CLP has put forward this motion to Hounslow Labour Group in response to the cuts in Council Tax Benefit that the Tory Government is forcing on the less well off in our society:
"This Labour Party is concerned that Hounslow Council was required to send a questionnaire to those in receipt of Council Tax benefits, asking them to indicate who should and who should not receive help with their council tax. We feel that this was divisive and intimidating, but it was done as a direct result of the Coalition Government's Council Tax changes.
This Labour Party condemns the Coalition Government for replacing council tax benefit [CTB] with council tax support [CTS] cutting the amount of funding by 10% which will be fixed irrespective of rising needs. This means that councils have to choose between cutting eligibility criteria for working-age people or filling the funding gap by making yet further cuts to council spending in future years. This Labour Party agrees to launch a local campaign against the abolition of CTB and other welfare benefit cuts that hit the lowest paid at a time when those earning £1 million per year are getting a £40,000 tax cut.
This Labour Party urges Hounslow Council to ensure that all communications make clear that the proposed CTS scheme and other welfare benefit changes are being imposed by this Tory-lead government"
HOUNSLOW COUNCIL TO GET PAY RISE OF £250 GMB CONGRESS IN BRIGTON TOLD
This agreement would not have come about without the campaigning of GMB and Hounslow Councils Labour Administration principled stance in sharing GMB values in regard to delivering the promise that the Tory Government reneged on says GMB
GMB members employed in the London bor
Londoners’ wallets will be hit with another inflation-busting fare increase – as Transport for London (TfL) last week announced travel costs in the capital will soar by 4.2 per cent on 1 January 2013. This means Boris Johnson has overseen a 26 per cent increase in fares since he became Mayor of London in 2008.
The fare hike was today described as “a tax on working people” by London-wide Labour Assembly Member Tom Copley – who urged the Mayor to throw a lifeline to struggling Londoners.
Since Boris Johnson was elected in 2008 fares have risen:
London-wide Assembly Member Tom Copley said:
“Yet again residents in Havering and Redbridge are being hit hard with the Mayor’s fare increases. Travelling into central London from zone 6 for work is going to cost an extra £440 a year.
“These fare rises are unfair and unnecessary and I urge the Mayor to think again. Energy bills will be going up 11 per cent, rents in London have increased by 8 per cent and the Mayor has added to this endless burden by putting up travel costs yet again.
“The Annual London Survey shows that getting cheaper fares are Londoners top concern, so it’s so disappointing that the Mayor is not listening to what Londoners want.
“It’s scandalous that local residents are being punished for working outside of Havering and Redbridge. Boris’ fare rises are a tax on working people. Transport costs in London are prohibitively expensive and the Mayor has successively ignored this fact for the last five years. Boris should spend less time campaigning for tax cuts for the richest people in London and more time keeping fares down for everyone else.”
Cllr Jagdish Sharma: Labour-run Hounslow is investing in services
Leader of Hounslow Council, Jagdish Sharma, provides our latest Constituency Matters political column in the Hounslow Cronicle.
Our budget plans for the coming financial year are focussed firmly on protecting front line services in the teeth of continuing financial pressures across public services.
But thanks to our sound financial management over the past two years, since Labour took over control of the council, this year’s budget isn’t a story about cuts – it is story about protecting and investing in services.
It is a story about real efficiency – the kind that is driving out savings from contracts and our “back office” support services, which gives us more money to spend on front line services.
That is how we are able to have already identified savings of £9 million in the coming financial year, freeing up some £1.5 million to invest in services
Where that money is going is defined by our pledges and resident’s priorities. I am sure there is not a single reader of this column who would disagree that keeping children safe from harm should be at the top of the list for investment.
That is why we are putting an extra quarter of a million pounds into funding additional officers to work on child protection and to bolster front line social services.
It is in the interests of Hounslow, London and the national economy that we have a town centre which is a thriving trading centre. We have ambitious plans for the development of Hounslow Town Centre to make sure that our local economy grows and we have a town centre where retail, business and leisure can thrive. And we are also investing in regeneration elsewhere in borough, for example to produce plans for an exciting and sustainable future for Feltham Arenas.
It is lazy and wrong to suggest, as the leader of our opposition group on the council did recently, that because we are able to invest we have over-taxed. Council tax levels in Hounslow have not increased for six years, a record for an outer London borough and a fact made even more remarkable by the coalition Government’s public service cuts.
This year’s budget is based on sound, effective financial management, efficient administration and above all, a strong understanding of the services which matter most to residents, and a willingness to invest in them