While the Conservatives were running Hammersmith and Fulham Council for eight years – from 2006 to 2014 – the Council’s General Fund debt fell from £169 million to £43 million. Of course that also meant a big fall in the interest bill and was one of the main reasons we managed to cut Council Tax.
Since Labour came in three years ago progress has slowed down terribly. The Council’s Finance Director tells me the total General Fund debt is £38.37m and forecast to be £37.1m by April 2018.
The interest bill in 2017/18 is projected to be £1.834m compared with £1.97m for the current financial year. That’s equivalent to three per cent of the Council Tax revenue – or the same as the total spending on libraries. Meanwhile the Council is spending £300,000 a year in the empty buildings it is hoarding.
Such a shame focus on debt reduction has been lost. We are treading water instead of making progress, here and in other areas too. What happened to the flyunder? The town hall redevelelopment scheme is proceeding at a snail’s pace.
Where is the energy and the action to really get this borough performing? Instead we have pointless tinkering with speed limits and too many costly consultations.
Labour councils prefer to ban things rather than do anything positive. The 20 mph limit is an example.