“Just 350 of the 15,600 wealthiest households in Westminster, one of the country’s richest boroughs, have answered the local authority’s call to voluntarily pay extra council tax to help tackle the homelessness crisis in the heart of London.
In February, the Westminster council leader, Nickie Aiken, wrote to all residents in the most expensive band H properties to ask them to consider paying an extra £833-a-year “community contribution” to help fund youth clubs, homelessness services and visits to lonely people.
But only 2% of the households have stepped forward to help their poorer neighbours, the Guardian can reveal. Those asked to consider making an extra contribution include the residents of the Candy brothers’ luxurious One Hyde Park apartment complex in Knightsbridge and those living in hundreds of multimillion-pound mansions in Mayfair, Belgravia and Maida Vale.
Residents in Westminster pay the lowest council tax in the country, with band H payments of £832 a year plus another £588 to the Greater London Authority. In Poole, Dorset, the band H charge is £3,358.
While very few of Westminster’s wealthiest residents have answered the council’s plea for help in maintaining essential services, they are paying tens of thousands of pounds a year in service charges to maintain their luxury buildings. The service charge on a £6m one-bedroom apartment in One Hyde Park comes in at more than £22,000 a year. The most expensive flat in the development was sold to the Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov for £135m in 2011.
Aiken said she introduced the voluntary contribution scheme following “a growing number of requests from some residents who live in the highest valued homes that they wanted to voluntarily contribute more than their existing council tax”.
The council said that in a pilot consultation more than 400 people responded positively to the survey saying they would support the scheme. But it appears that many may have failed to follow through on their initial enthusiasm. “The outcome of our consultation reflects the kind and generous spirit of Westminster residents,” Aiken said in February. “It also confirmed what I had heard from people I had met on the doorstep that those in the more expensive homes are willing to contribute more to community projects. The scheme is most popular among residents of the most expensive homes.”
However, four months down the line, Aiken said just 350 households had contributed a total of £342,000. The biggest single donation was £2,500. “This scheme had its cynics, but the number of contributions we have had are proof that an innovative idea like this one can make a difference,” she said. …”