Tower Hamlets residents will have their say on the way the council’s budget is spent this month through a series of interactive games and activities.
The events, which kicked off on Tuesday at the Idea Store in Whitechapel, are part of the Your Borough, Your Future initiative.
The campaign will run until December 10 in different locations across the area and aims to promote citizens’ engagement with the way public money is spent.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first in this year’s consultation and the first to be held in Whitechapel. Citizens participated in different activities, such as filling in surveys and playing games.
Among these was a board, divided into areas on which the council spends money. Residents were given 10 coins, representing the overall budget, and were asked to place coins on areas they wanted to see prioritised.
A ‘graffiti board’ was also installed to allow residents to voice their opinions, and they were encouraged to write the issues most important to them.
One such issue raised by locals was the closure of local authority day nurseries. Paula Bodington, 63, a receptionist from Whitechapel, said: “At the moment, the Mayor has decided to close the last three local authority day nurseries; they help vulnerable children in the borough.”
“In Tower Hamlets we have the highest level of child poverty in the UK, so I think it’s really important that we do as much as we can to try and persuade John Biggs to reverse this decision, because it’s going to harm the most vulnerable.”
Another issue raised was cuts in council tax reductions. Steven Carver, 35, a movie editor from Whitechapel, said: “There are cuts in council tax reductions for the poorest residents. [It is] something that has not been talked about much.”
“It’s basically where Tower Hamlets council is using the most arbitrary and most punitive devices of universal credit system to cut their council tax reduction bill. These are issues that I feel quite strongly about and I felt I should try and influence this in some way.”
The austerity programme, which began in 2010, greatly affected Tower Hamlets. In the last few years, government funding has been cut by £148m. The council’s current objective is to cut a further £44m.
According to the council, the Your Borough, Your Future campaign is a chance for citizens to help the council shape priorities.
Mayor John Biggs said: “As we approach the challenges of setting our next budget we want as many people as possible in our community to join the Your Borough, Your Future conversation, so we know about the issues that are important to you.”