Merton Council Tax to rise 5%

Ken Livingstone adds 15.2% to his spend

With extra money earmarked to schools, social services and environmental projects the Merton Council Tax is set to rise by 5% for the next financial year 2002/3.

However, the impact of Merton?s lean approach is offset when Ken Livingstone?s 15.2% budget increase impacts on local Council Tax payers

The Merton budget, agreed at this week?s Cabinet meeting, is to go to the full Council meeting on 6 March for approval.

Council Leader, Councillor Andrew Judge said the Merton Budget had been developed after widespread consultation with Merton residents. He said: ?With a wide-ranging consultation throughout the year, local people told us repeatedly that they wanted the Council to concentrate on improving standards in schools and to clean up the Borough by tackling graffiti, street cleaning, abandoned cars and fly tipping.

?We have responded to this by increasing spending in all these areas and adding an extra £750,000 approximately to the Government target for spending on schools. We have also saved £2 million by increasing efficiency and a further £3m cuts across the Council making a total saving of £5.18m.

?With this tough budget we have been able to keep the Council Tax rise to just 5%, well below the London average.

?Merton Council?s budget is a good one for Merton residents. Unfortunately, Ken Livingstone has not been so tight with his GLA budget which will see a 15.2% increase – or £173.88 per Band D property in Merton. Sadly the GLA hike will mean a total Band D Council Tax in Merton coming in at £1015.?

Councillor Judge said the Council itself had cut its budget to the bone – while increasing spending where there was public demand for quality services. He said: ?Sadly we have absolutely no control on the GLA precept, or how it is spent, and it is this increase that will cause the bills to hit and pass the £1000 barrier.

?What I can promise residents is that we will keep a close watch on how this extra GLA money is spent. I will want to see an increased Police presence in the Borough – meeting another demand from local residents – an efficient Fire Service and more commitment to improving roads and public transport. The GLA is responsible for all these services with the cash it is charging Merton residents and unless we see a sharp improvement in these services I will be knocking on Mayor Livingstone?s door demanding for a better deal for Merton.?