Wandsworth Pips Westminster to Set Lowest Council Tax

But some Band D householders will pay over £1,000 for the first time

Wandsworth Council froze its share of council tax

March 7, 2024

Wandsworth Council has approved plans to set what is says will be the lowest council tax rate in the country by freezing its core share of the bill, which funds general services, to help residents in the cost-of-living crisis. The authority’s overall share of council tax will only rise by 2 per cent in April to cover adult social care costs, instead of the maximum 4.99 per cent allowed without holding a referendum.

It means total council tax for the average band D household in most areas of Wandsworth will rise by £9.74 to £961.14 in the 2024/25 financial year. Some residents in Wandsworth are also subject to the Wimbledon and Putney Commons Conservators’ (WPCC) levy, which will rise to £39.15 for the average band D household in Wandsworth in 2024/25. This means the average band D household affected by the levy will pay £1,000.29 overall.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s share is set to increase by £37.26 for the average band D household to help fund police, fire and transport. The approved figure is lower than the £973.16 the average band D household in most areas of Westminster will pay in 2024/25, which was otherwise expected to be the cheapest in London.

Wandsworth set council tax for 2024/25 on 6 March. Labour council leader Simon Hogg said residents will pay the “lowest council tax in the country” while the authority delivers “better services for all, a greener borough with safer streets and stronger communities”.

Councillor Hogg said the council will continue to provide weekly bin collections and free monthly mega skips, and introduce food waste collections on every street. He said it had installed more CCTV, doubled support for victims of domestic violence, opened two libraries and helped families with free school uniforms, while its £15 million cost-of-living package is the “most generous support response in London”.

Councillor Hogg told the meeting the council will “lead a decade of renewal” in Wandsworth through “sound financial management” – doubling investment in roads and pavements, delivering 1,000 new council homes and switching to carbon neutral by 2030. He added: “Wandsworth is a fantastic place to live. Its strong, diverse communities represent the best of modern Britain. Labour’s plan will help keep Wandsworth special and make sure every resident can share in the exciting opportunities that our borough creates.”

But Wandsworth Conservatives said the administration had broken its previous “promise to cut council tax”. Conservative councillor Ethan Brooks said Wandsworth Labour’s manifesto promised this cut ahead of the local elections in 2022. He argued the administration had benefitted from “44 years of careful Conservative governance” before taking over, including a build-up of reserves.

Conservative councillor Emmeline Owens said services had declined. She said: “We have received an overwhelming number of complaints about missed bin collections, filthy roads and pavements, the commons and parks currently unusable by our voters, particularly our volunteer sports clubs, and now a brand-new library delivered by the previous Conservative administration in the Northcote ward not being considered for opening five days a week.”

Labour councillor Annamarie Critchard said Wandsworth Conservatives also raised the adult social care precept while in charge as the services it supports are “woefully under-funded”, and that it “hoarded” reserves. She added, “Money has sat idle while our borough has become tatty and our roads, parks and equipment are in need of urgent repair. This Labour administration believes we should use funds prudently and carefully to make this borough a better place to live.”

A report by council officers said the total revenue reserves available for council tax-setting purposes expected at April 1 is £201.9 million. It added the authority has a net budget of £199.7m for 2024/25, including a planned use of £12.5 million in reserves.

The council rejected the Conservatives’ motion and approved council tax for 2024/25 at the meeting.

Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter