Election 2014: Wandsworth Council opposition leader Rex Osborn says Labour can keep council tax low and stop cuts

Read the story here:

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/11223050.display/?ref=twtrec

 

Promoted by D J Bellamy on behalf of Tooting Labour Party,
both at 273 Balham High Road, London, SW17 7BD
Published and promoted by Sean Lawless on behalf of 
Battersea Labour Party, 
both at 177 Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5TE
Promoted by Fiona McLachlan on behalf of Putney Labour Party. 
Both at 35 Felsham Road London SW15 1AY

 

Labour’s Pledges for Wandsworth

1. Low council tax and value for money.
Both parties support low council tax. The difference is that the Tories waste £3 million of your money on bonuses for Town Hall bosses. Labour says that money should be used to ensure you get the high quality services you deserve. Lbour-rose
2. Keeping you safe
Labour is campaigning hard for all residential streets to have a 20mph limit.  We will also bring back lollipop wardens outside schools. Labour brought back local police teams, which the Tories have since slashed.
3. Supporting local shops, pubs and the community
Labour’s “save our high street” campaign has forced  the government to finally give council powers to tackle about betting chains taking over valued local shops. We’re fighting Wandsworth Tories’ foot-dragging over saving the Wheatsheaf pub at Tooting Bec. We will re-open the One o’clock Clubs closed by the Tories at Bolingbroke, Coronation Gardens, Windmill and Alton. And we’d recruit  new frontline enforcement staff to tackle fly tipping, littering and dog fouling.
4. Addressing London’s housing crisis
Nationally, Labour will introduce 3-year rental contracts to protect tenants from unaffordable rent rises, ban letting agent fees and get house building moving again. The Tories are standing by while rents go up 10% a year. Wandsworth Labour would create 1000 additional homes for social rent, freeze rent for council tenants until 2016 and bring it into line with the rest of London.
5. Tackling the cost of living crisis
For years now, prices have gone up faster than most people’s wages. A Labour government would freeze energy prices and provide more help with childcare. The out-of-touch Tories are denying that there’s a problem. Wandsworth Labour supports the London Living Wage.

 

Want to help? Get in touch….

Tooting

office@tootinglabour.org.uk

Battersea

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Putney

info@putneylabour.org.uk

 

Promoted by D J Bellamy on behalf of Tooting Labour Party,
both at 273 Balham High Road, London, SW17 7BD
Published and promoted by Sean Lawless on behalf of 
Battersea Labour Party, 
both at 177 Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5TE
Promoted by Fiona McLachlan on behalf of Putney Labour Party. 
Both at 35 Felsham Road London SW15 1AY


WANDSWORTH COUNCIL LOSES £500,000 GAMBLE OVER TAX FREEZE GRANT

Rex 10Nov13
Rex Osborn: Labour Group leader

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:

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/archive/2014/01/22/10953858.Council_left_with___500_000_budget_black_hole_after_tax__gamble__backfires/

 

WANDSWORTH LABOUR LAUNCHES LOW COUNCIL TAX COMMISSION

Labour councillors in Wandsworth have launched an independent commission of local government finance and business experts from across London, to uncover fresh ways to keep council tax low in the Borough while maintaining crucial frontline services.
Wandsworth labour
The commission will be 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.
The commission’s report will be independent of the Wandsworth Labour Group and the Wandsworth Labour Parties.

Michael will be 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.

Heavy cuts from the Tory-led Government have put local authority budgets under severe pressure since 2010. But Labour Councillors suspect that Wandsworth’s Tory Council no longer has a convincing long term strategic vision for the Borough, preferring to pursue damaging and penny-pinching savings.

The commission will produce its report in Spring 2014.

Councillor Rex Osborn, Leader of the Wandsworth Labour Group, said: “The Tory-led Government has imposed the biggest squeeze in history on local authority budgets, leaving local councillors with difficult choices to make. However, unlike Wandsworth Tories, who have demonstrated the wrong priorities – cutting back frontline services and toying with charging children to pay to use the Borough’s playgrounds – Labour believes there are better ways to balance the books and keep council tax low without penalising residents.

“That’s why I’ve asked an independent commission of local government and business experts to identify fairer ways to make the necessary savings. When voters go to the polls next May for the council elections, we will offer them a clear choice –more of the same from the Wandsworth Tories, or a fresh, fair approach from Labour, which will keep the council tax low.”

Michael Ward, chair of the commission, said: “I’ve lived in Wandsworth for a total of 28 years, and am excited to be embarking on a project that could have a real impact on the lives of Wandsworth residents. I’ve warned Rex Osborn and his Labour team that there are no easy answers, but I hope that our report will provide some new thinking and some genuine alternatives for local residents to consider.”

The Commission’s Terms of Reference are:

“To examine Wandsworth’s revenue and capital budget.

This should include:

  • forecasting trends in the balance sheet
  • examining the Council’s treatment by central government in the allocation of grant
  • reviewing the Council’s policy on, and use of, reserves
  • reviewing the policy on user charging
  • reviewing the relationship between the budget and the Housing Revenue Account
  • making recommendations for an alternative budget, structured according to clear principles and priorities making recommendations on improving the management of the budget.”

Michael Ward is a researcher and consultant on economic and social policy. From 2000 to 2004 he was Chief Executive of the London Development Agency, the London Mayor’s agency for business and jobs. In the 1970s he was a Wandsworth Councillor, and in the 1980s Deputy Leader of the GLC. He and his family live in Furzedown, Wandsworth.

Martin Pilgrim has spent most of his 39-year career working for bodies representing local government. His last job before retirement was Chief Executive of London Councils, the body which brings together London’s local authorities. Martin is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and has a Master’s degree in management from the University of Kent.

Stephanie Elsy has 30 years’ experience working at a senior level across the public, private and charity sectors. She is a former Leader of Southwark Council, and spent nine years as director of external affairs at Serco, which holds a large number of contracts with local authorities across the country.

Gareth Daniel has worked in London local government for more than three decades and served as Brent Council’s longest-serving Chief Executive from 1998–2012. A resident of Ealing in West London, he is a qualified social worker by background. He has also served as a councillor on the GLC and was chair of Ealing Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee for four years. He now runs his own management consultancy undertaking change management and partnership development projects across the country.

George Kessler is Joint Deputy Chairman of Kesslers International Limited, a London based manufacturing business employing an ethnically diverse multi-skilled workforce of 300. Kesslers are Europe’s leading designers and manufacturers of permanent Point of Purchase Display. George is also a member of London First, Made in London, London Economic Panel and EEF’s Economic Policy Committee as well as being Chair of EEF’s London region
.

Wandsworth Labour: ‘We’d Bring In Lower Council Tax This Year’

By Cllr. Rex Osborn, Leader of  Wandsworth Labour Group

The council tax is a regressive tax which penalises the private rent-payer, the council rent-payer, the elderly and the less well off. This time of recession is not the time to increase it and Labour has a way of saving an extra £5m to which the Conservatives are opposed. Rex
With many households across Wandsworth still feeling the squeeze, the Labour Group believes the Council should be doing everything it can to help residents this year – not putting up Council tax at a time when residents can least afford it.
Furthermore, we’re alarmed at its decision to gamble with £500,000 of taxpayers’ money, by betting that some clever accounting will ensure it qualifies for the Government’s council tax freeze grant. If it doesn’t pay off, residents will be left with higher council tax as well as another £500,000 hole in the Council’s budget.
The Labour Group supports the exploration of a rationalisation of Council departments – but we’re concerned that these proposals are not thought through and that the Tory Leader, Cllr. Govindia,  has committed the Council to an unrealistic time-frame.
By announcing these half-baked plans without understanding all the repercussions, the Leader has left hundreds of Council employees fearing for their jobs, and concerned about the uncertainty which now lies ahead.
We would urge the Tories to slow the process down, and understand all the options before committing to any radical overhaul of the Council.”

‘Make Savings And Protect The Frontline’ Says Wandsworth Labour

Cllr. Rex Osborn

At last week’s budget setting meeting of Wandsworth Council, Labour councillors tabled an amendment which would have ensured further budget savings, whilst still protecting valued front-line services.

The Labour group also committed to the freeze on Council Tax this year.Keeping Council Tax frozen is part of Labour’s commitment to easing the burden on hard-working families, whose household budgets are being squeezed by Government cuts and a stagnant economy.

Labour also supports a temporary reversal of the VAT increase introduced by the Tory-led government, which is costing families an extra £450 a year. Likewise, as a key part of Ken Livingstone’s mayoral campaign, Labour is committed to bring the cost of travel down for Londoners.

Labour does not believe that hard-pressed families should pay the price for George Osborne’s poor economic management, which has seen unemployment rocket to the highest level since the last Tory government, and will require an extra £158bn more borrowing than planned over this parliamentary term.

However, committing to a freeze on Council Tax requires clear forward planning, which the Wandsworth Conservative administration fail to do.

We are clear that this decision will guarantee the need to find additional savings within council budgets in coming years, beyond the 28% reduction in funding already handed down by the Government over the next four years

Yet, we do not believe this can be used as an excuse for a further ravaging of front-line services across the Borough. Already we see declining numbers of PCSOs on our streets, libraries closing, and proposals to charge children just to play. All round, services are being slashed.

This is why we have identified additional savings which can be made from the back office and administrative functions of the council, in order to prioritise three key areas of the Council’s work:

  • Education and Young People;
  • Health and Social Care, and;
  • Community Safety.

As a principle, Labour believes in protecting the front-line as a fundamental priority of any sound budget.

Labour is clear that decisions made to cut or otherwise must be part of a cogent plan, and that keeping Council Tax low should not mean that taxpayers should expect less in return.

Cllr Rex Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group said,

“Looking to the future, it is clear that short-term cuts may not always result in an overall saving if they produce long-term costs, something the Tory administration fail to understand.

“A fundamental priority of any sound budget is the need to protect those services with which residents interact every day, and to which service reductions and cuts are felt the hardest. This is especially important where cuts have a detrimental impact on the future economic prospects of the Borough and its residents.

“It is vitally important that we ensure the future prosperity of Wandsworth by maintaining services for young people and their families, by helping create healthy and well-educated future workforce, and by creating a safe and thriving community in which to do achieve this”

Cllr Leonie Cooper, GLA Candidate for Merton and Wandsworth said,

“Like the Mayor of London, the Wandsworth Conservatives prefer to see bonuses and high pay, rather than protection for front-line services.”