Council tax to rise as town hall deals with £30million of government cuts
PUBLISHED: 12:41 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:34 26 February 2019
Council tax is set to rise for the fourth consecutive year in Hackney as town hall chiefs prepare to deal with £30million of additional government cuts by 2022.
The 4.99 per cent rise – 2pc of which will go towards adult social care costs – is set to be signed off at tomorrow’s annual budget setting meeting.
The increase will see those in Band C properties – the borough’s average valuation band – paying 92p a week more from April.
Mayor Phil Glanville said raising council tax was the hardest part of the budget process.
He said: “We know while the council faces financial challenges, so do our residents and we need to find a balance between raising vital income to fund services and keeping bills as low as possible.
“For the average household in Hackney, the increase will add less than £1 a week. Despite this, it is expected Hackney will remain the ninth lowest council tax in London, with the average bill £300 lower than the average bill in England.”
As for the rest of the budget, the council has again protected frontline services such as libraries, parks, youth provision and its Hackney Works employment programme, which has helped 4,500 people into jobs.
Since 2010 government cuts have totalled £140m, and savings have been achieved, partly, by slashing the management budget from £18.4m to £9.7m, and making back-office cuts to the tune of £40m.
“It’s tough but when you see what we’ve already been able to do I think it’s possible to manage without deep cuts to front-line services,” Mr Glanville told the Gazette.
“We continue to do tough work around increasing income, consolidating our spend, innovating, looking at insourcing, looking at ways to change the ways we delivers services. Investing in Hackney Works, employment, capital decisions around investing in schools, maintaining our youth services.
“Those are the priorities we have around an inclusive economy and making sure Hackney is a place for everyone.
“We are slightly different than other places where they are taking tougher decisions this year but it’s still worth reflecting on £140million we don’t have and the real challenges ahead with the Fair Funding Review.”
The Fair Funding Review will change the way local government is funded, and is taking place now ahead of a rollout next year.
The chancellor’s spending review, which sets out funding for government departments and councils, is also taking place this year and could have a devastating impact.
“We’ve put in our submission to the funding review consultation,” Mr Glanville continued. “If you have the worst case scenarios on top of the cuts, you’re basically condemning places like Hackney to austerity for most of the next decade.
“Then you’re going to see that fallback to much closer statutory services and all of that prevention and intervention work we’ve made will be a lot harder to do.
“Deprivation will possibly not be taken into account. Social care, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), homelessness, no recourse to public funds, all of those areas would be covered under deprivation and those are the things we might be losing from the formula.”
As for the spending review, the mayor added: “The whole of Hackney could be impacted. Voluntary sector organisations, council services, all of that is bound up in the review.
“We will campaign and fight on individual issues each year but the rules of the game will be set by the review. If people can work with the council and organisations to say why these services matter it will give us a stronger hand.
“We don’t want to get to the point where we’re making very difficult decisions in the middle of the next decade because we haven’t had these discussions.”
The council is looking at where savings could be made if needed. One area is early intervention – services such as Young Hackney, youth justice and family support. But the mayor said they were not in danger.
“We will always prioritise things like Young Hackney,” he said. “We are really proud of our youth service and continue to invest with the second highest capital spend in London, but we’re not complacent about how they are delivered.
“Some of the review will inevitably have a financial element but some of it is about how we respond to new challenges for young people.”