Wandsworth Council is to increase its component of council tax raised from the borough’s households from April even though it and its leader are saying it will be frozen.
A letter to residents marked “council tax freeze” from council leader Simon Hogg begins with the words “Wandsworth Council is freezing your council tax this year” but adds towards the end that “there will be an increase of 2% in the social care levy”.
On its website the council has announced that it is “freezing your council tax this year”, only briefly mentioning the two per cent levy hike at the bottom of the page, and in a council video Hogg says “Wandsworth Council is freezing your council tax this year” without mentioning the two per cent increase at all.
The social care levy, or precept, is an element of council tax which local authorities with social care responsibilities can raise from local households alongside the rest of its council tax. Social care costs form a major part of local authority expenditure.
Two per cent is the maximum amount by which councils with social care duties are permitted by the government to increase that element of their council tax for the coming financial year 2023/24. They are also free to increase the rest of their council tax by a maximum of 2.99 per cent. That is what Wandsworth has chosen to freeze, not the social care element. Tower Hamlets and others are doing the same.
The final higher council tax bill to Wandsworth households will also include a precept for the Mayor of London and, for some, a levy raised by those responsible for the care of Wandsworth and Putney Commons.
There has been rapid criticism of the council’s announcement, with Tory Wandsworth councillor Peter Graham pointing out that “the tax you charge will be higher” by two per cent “so your claim simply isn’t true” and another Twitter-user making the same objection, calling the council’s claim “misleading” and saying the increase is being made “despite your election promise”.
During the run up to last May’s council elections Hogg and Labour, before taking control of the council from the Conservatives, made vague, misleading and contradictory pledges about council tax, including that a Labour-run council would “cut your council tax this year” and “cut your council tax next year” along with a looser promise to retain “the same low council tax” charged by the Conservatives. The Wandsworth Labour election manifesto is no longer available online.
On London has asked Wandsworth if councillor Hogg wishes to respond to criticisms that his administration intends to increase the amount of council tax it will collect for its own use having promised Wandsworth voters before the election it would be cut.
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