Our Council Tax bill is really two bills – one chunk goes to Hammersmith and Fulham Council and another chunk to the Mayor of London as the precept. This year will see the total rise for the first time for 11 years. Back in 2006 the then Labour Council increased its share by another 1.5 per cent (on top of much bigger increases in earlier years) for the coming financial year. The then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone increased his precept by 13.3 per cent. The upshot was that the total bill for a Band D household went up from £1,158 to £1,206.
In 2006 the Conservatives were elected and cut the Council Tax by three per cent in the following financial year 2007/08. Then by another three per cent for 2008/09, then another three per cent for 2009/10, then by another three per cent for 2010/11. A pattern was starting to emerge. There was a freeze in 2011/12 but then a cut of 3.7 per cent in 2012/13, another three per cent in 2013/14 and another cut on three per cent in 2014/15.
For the couple of years the reduction in bills was unfortunately partially offset by Mayor Livingstone’s tax hikes (he put up the precept by 5.3 per cent in 2007/08 and another two per cent in 2008/09.) But in 2008 Boris Johnson became Mayor of London and for his eight years at City Hall the precept was frozen and then cut.
Labour won control of Hammersmith and Fulham in 2014 promising to cut Council Tax at a faster rate than the Conservatives managed. Each year the Labour Group leader Cllr Stephen Cowan had stood up saying that the three per cent Council Tax cut did not go far enough. But in 2015/16 he only managed a one per cent cut, then in 2016/17 a freeze. However we still enjoyed a fall in our bill this year because in his final budget as Mayor of London Boris Johnson cut his share – the precept – by 6.4 per cent.
Sometimes people say that the sums involved are trivial. But they are not cumulatively to those on a tight budget. This year the Band D bill is £1,004 – so just over two hundred pounds lower than 2006. For some that’s the difference between whether they can afford a holiday or not. (The gap is even bigger in comparison with the average for England – where the Band D bill has gone up on average from £1,268 in 2006/07 to £1,530 this year. So while we pay £202 less others on average pay £262 more.)
Another claim is that it is “impossible” to cut the Council Tax any further. But in Wandsworth the Band D Council Tax is £680. In Westminster it is £669.
In the coming financial year – 2017/18 – Council Tax bills on Band D will increase by £4.02p. Hammersmith and Fulham Council is freezing the Council Tax. But the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is increasing the precept by 1.5 per cent.
So a very regrettable change in direction – and one that hits the poorest the hardest.