Approved: Mayor's budget to keep services open and provide investment despite Government cuts

  • Libraries, leisure centres, Idea Stores, parks and other frontline services protected.
  • 100% council tax relief and a new poverty fund for our most vulnerable residents

Tower Hamlets’ Council Tax for 2017/18 and its budget for the next three years was approved at the Full Council meeting last night.

Like other local authorities, Tower Hamlets has a legal duty to set a balanced budget despite the continued government cuts to council budgets.

The council identified the need to save an estimated £58m over the next three years from its annual budget. To make matters worse, it is on top of £138.3m already saved since 2010 because of previous government cuts. The council’s net budget for 2017/18 is £338.9m.

Last year the council ran the ‘Your Borough Your Future’ public consultation in which 48% of the 1742 residents that took part said they were willing to see council tax rise in order to protect services, with 38% against.

As a result the council took the difficult choice to raise council tax by 4.99%, the equivalent of 88p a week for the average Band D property.

The increase is made up of a 3% adult social care precept following the government’s decision that council tax should be raised to protect vulnerable and older people.

It also includes a 1.99% increase in order to fund the frontline services residents told us were a priority. Even after this change Tower Hamlets will still have the 7th lowest council tax in London.

Residents also said that the council should protect frontline services (43%); make the council more efficient (55%); prioritise parks and open spaces (91%) and events (45%).

Mayor John Biggs has used their views to produce a three year budget and prioritise investment in those areas that matter to people the most.

The budget includes:

  1. Cleaner streets and attractive open spaces
    Almost £5m has been allocated to improve the local environment, tackle air pollution, reduce littering and incentivise better waste collection.
  2. Safer communities – tackling anti-social behaviour
    Investment to reduce anti-social behaviour, reduce crime and improve the quality of rented housing is planned over the next three years.
  3. Greater prosperity and local jobs:
    Investment to roll out free Wi-Fi for residents in public places;  a new skills and employment service; a new fund to create 1,000 apprenticeships;  help for residents aged 50 and over into employment;  support for care leavers to find work; a new fund to tackle poverty; and the continuation of free school meals.
  4. Supporting healthier, happier lives
    Ensuring children’s centres, libraries and Ideas Stores remain open and making our award winning parks better than ever. A new £5m tackling poverty fund and 100% council tax discount for our most vulnerable residents.
  5. Building a better borough
    Continuing work to deliver 1,000 new council homes, and support the development of other homes along with the social infrastructure to support them such as schools and health centres.
  6. A more efficient council
    More than half of the savings proposed (£30m) will come from streamlining back-office functions and redesigning our services to be more cost effective.

For example, by 2020 we’ll save over £11m a year by improving procurement, debt management, and treasury management. We’ll save £12m by spending less on central support services.

Mayor John Biggs said: “Six years of Government cuts to the council’s budget are hitting Tower Hamlets hard with the council having to make £58m of savings in the next three years – that’s £1 in every £6 we currently spend.

“There is no way you can save that amount without taking difficult decisions, including on council tax, but we have listened closely to residents and protected frontline services as much as possible.

“Unlike many other councils, we are keeping our children’s centres, libraries and Ideas Stores and leisure centres open. We are continuing free school meals, creating 1,000 apprenticeships for young people and we are supporting our most vulnerable residents with 100% council tax relief and a new £5m poverty fund.

Councillor David Edgar, Cabinet Member for Resources added: “This is a carefully planned budget that aims to meet existing and future needs of our residents.

“I am pleased we have been able to invest millions to generate new jobs and skills, make the borough cleaner and invest in community safety programmes that could turn around people’s finances. “

Read the Budget setting Cabinet meeting agenda.

Posted on Friday 24th February 2017