Council reaching Third World levels says Hands

Claims plan could see a doubling of debt over 5 years

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1.5% increase on council tax for 2006/07

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Local Conservative MP Greg Hands has criticised the financial management of Hammersmith and Fulham Council after the recent budget meeting showed that it has increased by £36 million over the last two years

The debt howed by Hammersmith & Fulham as at 31st December 2003 was £297 million. This year’s figures (as at 23rd November 2005) show a £333 million debt, a rise of £36 million. This year’s increase is the equivalent of £317 on a Band D Council Tax bill. Approval was also given at the Budget Meeting to expand the debt a further £167 million to a massive £500 million, to cover planned growth. The Council has agreed to authorise the possibility of a further expansion of the debt to £632 million by 2008/09 - which would be a doubling of the debt since 31st December 2003, in just over five years.

Local Conservatives are making the comparison with highly indebted nations. Hammersmith and Fulham has now overtaken Botswana (£320m), and will surpass past other developing countries like The Gambia (£362m); Cambodia (£460m) and Tajikistan (£511m) if they exercise fully new borrowing powers.

Commenting, Greg said, "For too long, the Labour Council’s leadership have behaved like a Third World dictatorship - now it seems they will have a debt to match. The Council's debt is already huge, and to plan on doubling it in just five years is grossly irresponsible. "

The Council recently announced a 1.5% increase in this year's Council Tax with a two year cap on increases. Leader of the Council Cllr Stephen Burke said, "We want to keep bills as low as possible for all taxpayers but this is particularly good news for pensioners and people on fixed incomes. We want to end the uncertainty and worry people feel about how much their bills will be. We want Hammersmith & Fulham residents to be able to rest assured there will be no nasty shocks for the next three years. This three year council tax guarantee is probably the best deal in London."

March 21, 2006