Tory-run Wandsworth Council has been left with an unexpected half a million pound hole in its budgets, after Secretary of State Eric Pickles refused to pay a council tax freeze grant to the authority.
Wandsworth Tories raised the Borough’s Council Tax by more than 3% last April, but gambled on using a loophole to still qualify for the government’s council tax freeze grant – worth £492,000.
But it has now emerged that Eric Pickles’ Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) refused to pay the grant.
Cllr Rex Osborn, leader of the Wandsworth Labour Group, said: “It’s bad enough that the Tories chose to make Wandsworth one of the only Councils in the country to raise Council Tax last year – at a time when residents could least afford it. But it’s beyond belief that they would also try to pull the wool over the eyes of their own Secretary of State, claiming that a 3% rise in council tax should still leave them qualifying for the Council tax freeze grant. Wandsworth’s Tories have gambled with taxpayers’ money and lost almost half a million pounds.
“Labour voted to freeze the Council Tax last year, and is committed to keeping taxes low in Wandsworth. That’s why we’ve appointed an independent Commission of local authority finance experts to come up with some sensible ways to protect frontline services and keep Council Tax low – two key challenges that the Tories have failed to meet. In this climate, we need a steady hand overseeing the coffers in Wandsworth, not a party who takes gambles with taxpayers’ money.”
Wandsworth Labour councillors launched their independent Commission last month. The Commission is chaired by Michael Ward, former Chief Executive of the London Development Agency, who is a long-term Wandsworth resident with more than 30 years’ experience in local government, as an officer, an elected member, and a researcher.
Michael is joined on the Commission by Martin Pilgrim, former Chief Executive of London Councils; Gareth Daniel, former Chief Executive of Brent Council; Stephanie Elsy, former Leader of Southwark Council; and George Kessler, Joint Managing Director of a London manufacturing business and a member of London First, the influential business organisation representing London’s leading employers.
Read more here: