Council tax increase and annual budget proposals released by ELL boroughs

Pic: Ken Teegardin

The ELL boroughs, Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham, and Tower Hamlets, this week released their council tax increases, annual budgets and plans for the coming year.

With the ongoing pandemic, boroughs across London have been affected with reduced budgets from £400m to £250m, and these initiatives plan on recovering their respective communities.

All councils with the exception of Tower Hamlets have introduced a council tax rise ranging from between 1.99 to 2.99%.

The councils also pledge further investments into services such as public libraries, youth services, public parks and more.

The budget includes a council tax rise of 1.99% for Croydon residents.

Croydon Council is planning to spend over £330m delivering local services. The council said the budget would include extra help for children and young people with special educational needs and support for carers.

Similar to the other boroughs, the focus is libraries and children’s centres, as well as maintaining the borough’s 127 parks and green spaces.

In an effort to fully recover from the pandemic, the borough is focusing on building its financial resilience, such as adding to council reserves to cover potential areas of risk including rising inflation and reducing its borrowing costs.

“The council will also continue to prioritise tackling inequalities, assisting Croydon’s voluntary sector organisations, and supporting the borough’s communities as they recover from the pandemic,” said Croydon Council.

Twitter user Andrew Pelling said in response to the statement: “You’re paying council tax for this publicity. Saying the budget is balanced is like saying your household spending is balanced after maxing up on your credit card to cover the bills. The #Croydon council press department needs cutting to save money for front line services.”

Leader of Croydon Council, Hamida Ali said: “Delivering this balanced budget shows that despite the significant funding pressures facing local authorities, Croydon is making great strides in getting its finances back on track.”

Hackney Council announced a tax increase of 2.99%.

Despite this, the borough still has one of London’s lowest Council Tax rates.

According to Hackney Councils statement, this will cover services such as waste and recycling to parks and libraries, social care for children and adults to measures to reduce poverty, resources to tackle the climate emergency to community safety and services and activities for young people and from helping people find jobs or access training to providing temporary accommodation for homeless residents.

Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said: “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on all of us, and our residents and businesses continue to suffer from the wider fallout. It has also been an incredibly tough 12 months for the council and our staff: responding to the economic and social impact of the Covid pandemic and responding to the increasing demand for our services.

“We have been working tirelessly to make savings behind the scenes to ensure frontline services continue to function well and that we can keep supporting our most vulnerable. However, we still need to make nearly £11m of savings this financial year.”

Dalston resident, Sandra Bush told Hackney Post: “It’s just bad for the young and unemployed, but for elderly people like me as well. I’m in band D so it might only be a pound or however much for me, but it’s exorbitant when added on to everything else.”

Other agreements outlined by the borough for the year ahead include:

● £4m on improving libraries, including £2.65m into Stoke Newington Library

● Around £71 million on regeneration and new council home-building programme

● £13.6m on youth and early help services for families, including our four youth hubs and six adventure playgrounds

● £44m on improving and maintaining council homes

● £3m on town centre regeneration to help businesses recover from the pandemic and ensure an inclusive and fair recovery

●£23m on maintaining Hackney’s 58 parks, gardens and open spaces and seven sport and leisure centres, including £4.5m in the London Fields Lido learning pool; more than £4m in repairs at Kings Hall Leisure Centre (Hackney Baths); and more than £1.27m into play area refurbishments and more

Lewishams borough’s council tax will rise by 3%

Budget cuts also mean that those living in band D homes will pay an extra £41 per year.

Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan said: “The government’s levelling up agenda sadly seems to be being used as an excuse to take money away from London, forgetting the fact that within communities like Lewisham, there are high levels of deprivation.”

He continued: “There is no doubt that these cuts will leave us worse off as a borough, and there should be no doubt that the blame for that lies squarely with this Government.”

Forest Hill resident, Des Muller said: “I am sympathetic to Lewisham Council’s plight, because the government have cut the grant that they receive over the 12 years the Conservatives have been in power, and they have to do the same with less.” 

The new budget freezes the council’s portion of council tax, with a one per cent rise in the Adult Social Care precept to support the borough’s older and vulnerable residents.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said: “As we continue our path through the pandemic, I know that many families are seriously worried about the cost of living crisis. At this stage, the full impact on local people is still not known as residents face even greater hikes in food and energy costs, interest rates and National Insurance.”

He continued: “That’s why our budget gives extra financial support for residents and continues to invest in crucial services for children and vulnerable adults, and other frontline services such as waste and recycling, housing and community safety.”

Similarly to Hackney, more money will be invested into waste and recycling services, adult social care, special educational needs services, community safety, tackling violence against women and girls, supporting carers, supporting residents and more.

According to Tower Hamlets Council, council-funded police officers will also continue, with a new investment of £3 million for improved CCTV.

Councillor Candida Ronald, Cabinet Member for Resources and the Voluntary Sector, said: “There’s a range of extra financial help for struggling households, and we’re proud to be protecting our 100% council tax reduction scheme, which few councils now offer, so the poorest households won’t pay any council tax at all.”

Sarah Smith on Twitter said: This is what a @UKLabour council can achieve. In spite of the Tory cuts, they’re still able to prioritise front line services and make a real difference. This is #leadership. Well done @MayorJohnBiggs.

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