Hackney Council budget signed off at annual town hall meeting

Cllr Simche Steinberger addresses the chamber.

Cllr Simche Steinberger addresses the chamber. - Credit: Archant

Council tax will rise 3 per cent from next month after £13.8million of budget cuts were signed off at Hackney Town Hall.

Protesters being kicked out of the town hall meeting.

Protesters being kicked out of the town hall meeting. - Credit: Archant

The annual meeting was a relaxed one – once it got started. Bouncers kept members of the public, including protesters from the Socialist Party, standing in the rain until the doors opened just before 7pm.

And it wasn’t long before the protesters were back outside, after they were kicked out for heckling. “You are talking about boosting the economy while taking away jobs and services,” one shouted. “It’s a disgrace.”

Mayor Philip Glanville defended the cuts in his speech, saying he was still focused on protecting the services for the most vulnerable and the council tax increase was needed due to huge cost pressures imposed by Whitehall.

Since 2010, town hall bosses have had to shave £152m off their spending. And it’s not going to get better for a while. By 2020/21 Hackney’s annual grant will have fallen £139million, or 45 per cent.

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The hike will raise £2m and cost those in Band D properties 60p more a week. Most people will be paying less.

Two per cent of it will go towards paying for adult social care, a provision allowed by the government. The other 1 per cent will go towards helping vulnerable children, youth work, temporary accommodation and keeping parks and streets clean.

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Another £1.7m will be saved with “efficiencies” in the public health department and £1.1m will be raised through a “redesign” of the housing support for vulnerable adults, including a new charge for the “telecare” phone help service.

The mayor also touched on the £3.4m overspend on the Hackney Town Hall improvements, revealed by the Gazette last month. “I regret that it required more investment,” he said. “But it has allowed us 40 per cent more staff, will save money long term and make sure we have a civic building we can all be proud of.”

He said commercial income was something the town hall was looking at, and had already raised £12m in recent years. The old college building at the run down Keltan House was taken over by a workspace, raising £1m, for example.

There was even some common ground found with the opposition, though Tory member Cllr Simche Steinberger took aim as usual at the “Hackney Toerag” (council paper Hackney Today, which the government has repeatedly told the town hall to stop printing).

“The only times I see my picture or anyone from the opposition’s picture is for our surgeries,” he said. “Page 1 is the mayor, page 3 is Cllr Demirci.

“We’re spending a lot of money to keep it, I don’t know if that’s the best solution.

“And the £3.5m overspending on the town hall. We have a shortage of money, is that really what is important?”.

Both Cllr Steinberger and Cllr Ian Sharer of the Lib Dems backed the council action against the huge increase in business rates.

But their proposed budgets, both two pages long, were swiftly dismissed, and a rousing speech from Cllr Jon Burke criticised them for their lack of depth.

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