Mayor John Biggs and his Cabinet have approved the borough’s draft three year budget, which is designed to invest in a cleaner, safer and fairer Tower Hamlets and continue to protect residents from the negative impacts of ongoing austerity and government cuts.
The budget proposals, subject to further scrutiny from councillors ahead of being formally adopted at next month’s special budget council meeting, include significant future funding for services that residents and businesses have told the council that they value and rely on.
These include funding proposals for community safety, housing, children’s services, education and the environment:
- £1.7 million for a new team of anti-social behaviour enforcement officers to keep streets safe on top of the additional police officers already funded by the council.
- £2.5m new funding to improve waste services and a new team to remove graffiti and clean up our borough.
- £332m for new council housing schemes and temporary accommodation.
- £4.9m investment in early years for our youngest residents and additional support for our schools.
- £2.7m to protect free school meals for all primary school pupils and expanding our much needed tackling poverty fund.
- £112m in funding secured for two new secondary schools and investment in a new footbridge across South Dock on the Isle of Dogs.
- Bringing our communities together by scrapping the charge for street parties and providing continued funding for events including the Victoria Park Fireworks and Boishakhi Mela.
The council faces a number of financial pressures including government core funding being cut by £148 million (which equates to 64%) since 2010, and needs to make further savings of £44m by 2022.
Protecting key frontline services remains a priority and moving to a rolling three year budget process in 2017 has meant the council can spend money more efficiently. However, growing pressures, including increasing costs to support vulnerable residents, means that the council has to do even more for less.
Mayor Biggs said: “In setting this next three year budget, we will be leading the way across local government investing millions to protect frontline services and make the borough cleaner, safer and fairer. It is one of my most important responsibilities as mayor to ensure we are making the most of the money we have.
“There’s no escaping the fact that after nearly a decade of austerity, and the loss of £148m in core government funding since 2010 we face tough choices. However, through our schemes to tackle poverty, invest in new and improved housing, better schools, jobs, and cleaning up our environment, we can also point towards many positive measures we’ve put in place.
“In setting our budget, we’ve spoken to residents and businesses about their priorities. The budget will invest in the future of our borough while protecting key services and the most vulnerable.”
More than 2,000 local residents and businesses responded to the ‘Your Borough Your Future’ six week budget consultation that ended last month. This included budget roadshow events across the borough.
The consultation revealed that the services most valued were those for children, public health and community safety. Fifty eight per cent of residents supported up to a 3 per cent council tax rise and over two-thirds of all respondents supported a further 1 per cent rise specifically for adult social care services.
In terms of the borough’s council tax plans, the draft budget proposes a council tax rise of 2.4% which is in line with inflation, plus an additional 1% which will directly help to support adult social care. These measures were supported in the recent public consultation and will mean an average additional 65p per week council tax rise per household. The Greater London Authority (GLA) is currently consulting on their element of the council tax.
This will run alongside what remains one of the most generous local council tax reduction schemes. Tower Hamlets remains the seventh lowest council tax in London.
There was also strong support in the consultation for the council to make services more efficient and increase income generation to protect frontline services. The council will continue with this approach in the future, extending the range of services people can access online and provide targeted support for those who need it too.
Cllr Candida Ronald, Cabinet Member for Resources and the Voluntary Sector said: ‘’We really value the feedback we receive from residents and have listened to what they said in our budget consultation. Their priorities were community safety, housing and children’s services and education and this budget responds to those priorities.
“We face tough choices due to government cuts to our funding and we have found many ways of doing things more efficiently. Through more efficient use of our resources we’ve been able to protect essential services and invest in the future of our community’’.
Posted on Friday 11th January 2019