Category Archives: Council Tax

Conservatives Hold Down Council Tax Rise

  • Just 0.9% Average Over Last Four Years
  • Financial Boost Given to Local Priorities

Bromley Council has once again set a balanced budget, despite continuing financial pressures, with a council tax rise of just 42p a week at Band D.

Total Council Tax, including the Conservative Mayor of London’s portion, will increase by just 1.6% – close to the current inflation rate of 1.3% (RPI). This is despite the council facing a budget gap of £25m over the next four years, as central government continues to drive down the national deficit still lingering after Labour’s thirteen years of mismanagement.

In fact, thanks to sound Conservative financial management at both Bromley Civic Centre and City Hall, total council tax has increased by an average of just 0.9% in the last four years.

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Included in this year’s budget was a 2% ‘ringfenced’ council tax increase for social care, and £19m in savings focussed, as far as possible, on non-essential expenditure and administration cuts.

Council Leader Cllr Stephen Carr said: “We have had to make this increase in Council Tax this year to help balance the budget and have introduced the 2 per cent precept allowed by the Chancellor to help meet the costs of care, as our population ages and more people have complex care needs. This is particularly acute in Bromley where we have a larger-than-average ageing population. During our budget consultation last year many residents again said they understood the need for a rise in Council Tax to help protect essential services.

“We have the lowest funding per head of population in London and, as budgets contract, we have to do things differently, even stopping some services. Supporting people to be more self-sufficient with signposting to online services, for instance, helps to conserve limited funding for those who need help most and for services that reflect the priorities of local residents.”

The budget also includes two years’ transitional funding from Central Government, won after intervention from the borough’s Conservative MPs including Bob Stewart.

The Leader of the Council also added: “As a result of our strict and determined budget monitoring, I am delighted to announce we are in a position to set aside £750,000 from underspends in the current year’s budget to allow us to further enhance our environment.

The proposals are:
• £250,000 to enhance our environment, particularly to help with the maintenance of trees and replacing those that have been lost.
• £250,000 to attack the scourge of environmental crime, especially fly-tipping.
• £250,000 to enhance and improve local shopping parades, building on a successful programme of local shopping district improvements over the last couple of years.

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Positive Agreement Reached on BYMT’s Future

At the Council’s budget-setting meeting, it was announced that an agreement had been reached with the Bromley Youth Music Trust (BYMT) regarding the final phase of the council’s reduction in funding for the trust.violin

The proposed cut in funding for 2015/16 of £230,000 was scaled back to £153,000. The proposed full withdrawal of the direct grant for 2016/17 remains, however the existing peppercorn rent for the Southborough Lane site – equivalent to some £200,000 per annum – also remains until the end of the lease in April 2017.

In addition, the Trust is responding more positively to the Council’s efforts to assist them in securing more sources of funding from elsewhere. The agreement should set the scene for a successful transition for the Trust to greater independence from the Council without compromising its nationally recognised reputation for youth music.

Council Tax Set for 2015/16

pound_coinsAt last week’s Council Meeting, the 2015/16 council tax in Bromley was set at £1,325.14 at Band D – an increase of just 1.2%.

At the same time, savings of £8.8m were approved. Council leader Cllr. Stephen Carr said there could be “no gimmicks, short term political decisions” and noted that while other councils have been cutting essential core services, such measures have been laregly avoided in Bromley. Even so, tough decisions will still be necessary in the future, as the council still faces a forecast £52m budget gap by 2018/19.

Bromley Council’s Budget: What Will Happen to BYMT?

Many residents, parents and otherwise, will be aware of the outstanding reputation and work of the Bromley Youth Music Trust (BYMT).violin

However, as may will be aware, Bromley Council is facing some difficult decisions as they try to find some £60-70m savings over the next four years, and services such as BYMT, which the council is not required to provide by law, will come under scrutiny.

Currently the council makes a grant of £306,000 per annum to BYMT, in addition to a peppercorn rent at the Southborough Lane site which represents a further subsidy of some £150,000 p.a.. The Council are very keen to ensure that BYMT is able to become more financially secure by reducing its reliance on volatile council funding and diversifying its income sources. That is why they have been reducing, in a manageable way, the grant to BYMT over the last few years – in fact the direct grant to BYMT now represents less than 20% of its total income (compared to 45% four years ago) – while at the same time, crucially, the council is working with BYMT to source other funding streams.

One of these is a bid to the Arts Council, to become a hub for musical excellence in South East London. Also, the council is looking at other ways that it can support BYMT financially with the help that it already gives pupils from poorer backgrounds. The council is also encouraging BYMT to engage with other local authorities and schools, providing music services to a currently under-supplied market, as well as seeking more commercial sponsorship and support.

Bromley Council is very keen that it’s able to meet its own financial challenges but without leaving BYMT ‘high and dry’. As a jewel in Bromley’s crown we all want to see BYMT continue to go from strength to strength and the council is determined that its reputation is sustained even as its dependence on the council taxpayer continues to reduce.

60 Million Questions … But No Easy Answers

pound_coinsOver the next four years Bromley Council will need to make savings of nearly £60m out of a budget that currently totals around £200m. If you had to take that 30% out of the budget, how would you prioritise the many services the Council provides?

Bromley received the second lowest government grant (per head) in London but, because we are already a low spending council, we also have the lowest Council Tax in Outer London. However, central government is reducing funding to local government as part of the effort since 2010 to get the national finances back on an even keel, and the effect on councils is amplified by the commitment to protect NHS and education budgets.

Against this background, all councillors – including us here in Hayes and Coney Hall – are going to have the make some very difficult decisions.

Now you can tell the council what you think, either online here or at one of the two public meetings taking place:

20th November 7pm at Orpington Methodist Church, Sevenoaks Road BR6 9JH
28th November 11am at Bromley Civic Centre, Stockwell Close BR1 3UH

Conservative Bromley To Freeze Council Tax

Frozen pound signCouncil Tax is set to be at least frozen next year after successful lobbying by Bromley’s Conservative Councillors.

Following successful campaigning by Conservative Councillors, Bromley Council will be freezing Council Tax for the year 2014/15 after a change of heart by Government which will see the Council Tax Freeze Grant imbedded in baseline funding and not a one off ‘bribe’ as had been offered in the last two years years.

This news is seen as a direct result of the determined lobbying by a number of Local Authorities up and down the Country but very much led from right here in Bromley.

Cllr. Eric Bosshard, Chairman of Bromley’s Executive and Resources PDS Committee said, “this has to be seen as a considerable achievement for the Borough and we are enormously proud that Bromley is leading the way”.

Robust lobbying by leading Bromley Conservatives has also led to more welcome news, which sees an earlier announced further 10%reduction in grant funding being withdrawn.

On hearing this change of heart by the Treasury, Cllr. Stephen Carr, Leader of Bromley Council said, “we know the problems facing many of our residents in light of the very difficult economic circumstances, so were determined to do all we could to support them and argue our case with the Government and whilst there are very significant challenges ahead we seem, at least for now, to have won the argument”.