You might think Ealing Council has gone from strength to strength but it
wasn’t always this way. The council might boast cash reserves of £15m and four
years of below-inflation council tax rises, but if we go back to 2003, it was a
very different story.
Council tax levies rose 25%, cash reserves were only £2m and there was a
social services overspend of £2.6m.
Perhaps one of the more public displays of the council’s financial stability
recently was when it paid each household £50 to help during the recession. It
was this, among a range of other factors, which contributed to judges awarding
the council the Finance Team of the Year: Public and Voluntary Sector.
The £50 gesture “sent out a very positive message about council service”, the
judges said. “This was a small team that delivered.”
The council now says tight financial management is part of its DNA and
overspends are simply not tolerated and potential savings constantly being
The council is now looking at lowering costs by a further £1m without
reducing service levels, while maintaining high customer service levels.
The team also endeavours to cut the jargon from its communication with the
public and simplify financial statements.
The progress is driven in part from a clear political direction, from
councillors, that the council helps residents by reducing the tax burden.This
leaves the finance team with the seemingly contradictory task of reducing income
while also increasing services.
Finance is embedded at the heart of the council’s decision making. The
council invests in its staff, with employees invited to regular forums and
training events, along with a monthly strategy group meeting. The council has
also brought in
a finance monitor system and weekly briefings with the councillor responsible
Ealing should be used to winning awards. The team received an “excellent”
rating from the Audit Committee and won the Best Achieving Council from the
Municipal Journal. Staff member Naresh Chenani also won European Young Risk
Achiever of the Year.
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