At last night’s meeting of Full Council, elected members voted down a misleading and inaccurate Conservative motion attacking Kingston Council’s value for money.
The motion, moved by Conservative front bencher Paul Johnson said:
‘The Audit Commission & the CAA report, in a document not hitherto circulated by the Administration, stated that only a quarter of residents of the Royal Borough consider they are getting value for money from the Council despite paying the highest Council Tax in London…
We therefore call upon the Administration to publish the Audit Commission document which contains the statement and to apologise to the citizens of the Royal Borough for its shortcomings during its long tenure of office.’
The Council Leader pointed out that the Audit Commission’s ‘One Place’ Organisational assessment was published and fully available online since 9th December 2009, had been press released by the Council, and had been circulated in an Executive report on 13th January 2010.
The Commission’s overall finding was that “RBK performs well” and praised the Administration:
• “The Council seeks to improve value for money and continues to make changes to services to improve performance and reduce costs. It has made savings of more than £7million in the last two years.”
• “The Council is also working increasingly with other local councils to gain better value for money through providing services together.”
The Council Leader pointed out that there was a narrow range in the top and bottom quartiles of residents who supported the statement of ‘value for money’ across the London boroughs – although the response fully correlated with the councils’ favourable Government grant and subsequent Council Tax rate, not the individual Administrations’ spending or use of resources.
“Kingston is one of the lowest spending authorities in London, we spend £203 less per resident than the London average, and over £80 less than the outer-London average – and yet deliver some of the best performing Council services in the country.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Frances Moseley added that: “Cllr Johnson is an old school master and should know better than using the wrong preposition in this Motion. It is not ‘despite’ the fact that Kingston residents have a high Council Tax that they do not believe they are getting value for money – it is because they are charged a higher Council Tax than other London boroughs.
“The survey reflects this Government’s unfair system of funding local government, handing out different financial settlements to local authorities, and yet expecting us to deliver the same local services.”
Kingston upon Thames received one of the lowest Government grant settlements in the capital, and has not improved to meet the recessionary and demographic pressures on this year’s budget. For 2010/11, Kingston received just 1/3 of the grant per head of Hammersmith and Fulham, and less than 1/2 of the outer-London average.
This means that residents have to meet the cost of almost 70% of providing local services through Council Tax, compared to only 42% of London as a whole. £49million worth of locally levied business rates were also removed from the Borough this year to be spent by the Government’s Treasury Department.
The Conservative motion ‘Lack of Value for Money’ was described as ‘naive’ and ‘disingenuous’ – and voted down, 24 against to 18 in favour.