Hackney Council freezes tax despite £36m cuts

Hackney Town Hall, of Mare Street.

Hackney Town Hall, of Mare Street. - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council has frozen council tax rates again, setting a new record at 10 consecutive years – despite huge funding cuts from central government.

Hackney Council is the only local authority in the country to keep council tax rates the same for a 10th year and has vowed to protect frontline services in the face swingeing cuts.

It refuses to be drawn on how exactly it intends to claw back the £36m central government shortfall, but Mayor Jules Pipe has said the council must “think creatively.” Although, 40 to 70 job losses have been confirmed.

The council cites schemes such as “back office savings, examining contracts and selling land to generate income.”

This includes renegotiating and buying out the council’s costly PFI (Private Finance Initiative) contract with Technology Learning Centre which could save millions of pounds every year. But it is not expected to help this year’s budget.

Mayor Pipe talked about “unlocking the borough’s high land values to generate funds” to make up shortfalls in government funding and provide income for expansive new infastructure and homes.

The council cited plans to build a 13-storey tower block on top of a new school next to Hackney Downs – reported in last week’s Gazette –as an example, although the scheme has been slammed by nearby residents. It will involve bulldozing Downsview School and replacing it with a two storey, 430 pupil primary school and putting homes above.

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In this year’s budget papers, which outlines how just over £1billion will be spent, the council promises to build 3,000 new homes before 2018. But it refused to state if any of these would be affordable – despite the increasing homelessness problem facing the borough.

Measures to alleviate the strain on the council’s temporary accommodation budget for displaced residents, as private rents soar, were also outlined in the report – with schemes like registering private landlords and lobbying for rent caps.

Business rates will go up but small businesses can benefit from a rate relief scheme of £1000, which the council aims to push borough-wide.

The council insisted proposed job cuts will largely come from posts currently vacant

Funds will be allocated to tackle the shortfall of foster carers and a reduction in spending on agencies.

Spending plans also include regenerating Dalston, Narrow Way and Hackney Wick, as well as continued work on the Hackney Fashion Hub.