Hackney council tax to rise by 2.99 per cent

Hackney Town Hall 

Hackney Town Hall - Credit: Julia Gregory

Council tax will go up in Hackney to help meet the rising demand for services with politicians warning of “hard choices” to come.

There will be a 2.99 per cent increase on the share the council gets, and a rise of 4.3 per cent overall when the Greater London Authority share is included.

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “This is never an easy decision and we know that any rise can have an impact on those on fixed incomes.”

Outlining the budget presented to full council, he said council tax in Hackney is among the lowest in London and the increase means a rise of “less than £1 a week”.

People in Band D homes will pay  £1,671.09, up from £1,602.13 last year.

Glanville added: “We are very much aware that these increases come at a time when overall cost of living pressures are biting hard." 

He said there is help for people who cannot pay their council tax, including the Discretionary Crisis Support Scheme .

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The Conservative opposition proposed cutting the portion of council tax charged by the council by £54.06 for a Band D home. This would have seen an overall increase of £14.90, taking Band D council tax to  £1,617.03.

Conservative councillor Simche Steinberger said: “We do not feel it is helpful for council tax to go up at this time. To expect people to pay more money is totally unacceptable.”

He told councillors : “I don’t think it’s fair for residents to pay so much.”

Mayor Philip Glanville said the budget comes at a time when costs are rising and the demand for services is increasing because thousands of Hackney residents are finding life has become harder.

He blamed “the rise in in-work poverty, unemployment, a failure to regulate the private rented sector, the hostile environment, Universal Credit and wider welfare reform, and Covid-19”.

He added: “This impacts the ability of the council to respond and compounds the impact of austerity on our wider services as we seek to do more with less.”

He said the Labour-run council is investing in its priorities of tackling hardship and poverty and maintaining services to support the vulnerable.

Cllr Robert Chapman, the cabinet member for finance, said the level of government funding is 40 per cent lower now than in 2010, and the recent one-year funding cycles “makes planning really difficult”.

Overall the council has made savings of £7.4m, the mayor said.

They include “tightening our belt in communications, legal regeneration”, £1.7m savings in neighbourhoods and housing, and £500k saved from the chief executive’s department.

There is also “more robust debt recovery” for unpaid adult social care costs.

The ongoing recovery from the October 2020 cyber attack has cost an estimated £6m to £10m, and has seen a loss of revenue as well as  a need to bring forward investment to update IT.

The cost of the pandemic and loss of income have hit the council to the tune of £7.5m this year.

Drops in income included markets, planning fees, libraries, events and use of Shoreditch Town Hall as a venue for weddings and other celebrations.

The pandemic also hit income from council tax, business rates, commercial property rents, car parking and trade waste.

The trend for working from home could have a longer term impact on income from business rates, the mayor warned.

He said Hackney faces an expected budget gap of an estimated £14m to £29m in 2023/24 which could rise to between £47m and £68m by 2026.

The Conservative’s alternative budget of £7m in savings included deferring investment in improvements at King’s Hall leisure centre and saving £1.5m in investment in highways for one year, putting off work on libraries and delaying LED light bulb replacements.

Other savings could include reducing the money spent on tree maintenance, council communications and cutting the cost of the cabinet.

Steinberger added: “Many low traffic schemes have had an adverse impact on the safety of local residents and other road users. We also believe that some of these schemes have had an adverse impact on local businesses and residents.

“Typical examples of wasted money are the cycle superhighway at West Bank, works at Clapton Common and other road closures in the Stoke Newington area.”

He said no more money would be spend on controlled parking zones in Hackney either.

The Labour majority opposed the Conservatives’ amendments and passed the budget.