Headlines: September 29th, 2008

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is held up as an example of an energetic and determined local authority in a report published today by the Centre for Policy Studies. “The New Good Council Guide Part One” describes how the authority has cut council tax but improved services.

The report, by the council leader, Stephen Greenhalgh, says that in their first two years in office Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives have reduced council tax by three per cent, cut spending by 7 million pounds, taken 20 million pounds off the council’s debts and reduced the workforce by 18 per cent, the equivalent of 950 full-time posts. It estimates that the tax reduction means that average bills are now 350 pounds lower than they would have been if the previous rate of increase had been allowed to continue.

At the same time, the report argues, services have improved significantly. The authority is paying for high-profile, round-the-clock beat policing which has led to a fall in crime rates. In further examples the report says street cleaning services and council estates are also being improved. Anti-social behaviour on estates is being challenged and the council is now taking active steps to evict the worst tenants and the physical environment is being improved.

The report argues, too, that the policies are not only effective but also popular and it says that local people now see the authority as being focused on value for money and delivering on the things that matter to them. Satisfaction levels among resident have risen by 11 per cent to 64 per cent.

Jill Kirby, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said, “This report shows how an energetic and determined local authority has succeeded in cutting taxes, cutting spending and reducing debt while improving services for residents. It is not surprising that, as independent polling shows, these policies are popular with voters”.