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Council tax bills to go up by 5% as Town Hall faces ‘massive pressure on budgets and services’

Islington Council leader Richard Watts: ‘There is nothing on this list [of savin

Islington Council leader Richard Watts: ‘There is nothing on this list [of savings] that keeps us awake at night’

Published: 13 January, 2017
by JOE COOPER

COUNCIL tax bills will rise by 5 per cent in April as the Town Hall seeks to save more than £20million over the coming year – but frontline services are to be protected.

Council chiefs have set aside £40m for new council housing, £3m for employment services and have also scrapped council tax for young care leavers.

Of Islington Council’s almost 5,000-strong workforce, 54 posts are being scrapped – 21 are vacancies that will not be filled, while 26 staff face compulsory redundancy and seven will take voluntary redundancy.

The council has had to save £21.4m in the 2017/18 budget, on top of the £170m of cuts it has had to make since 2010. By 2020, its budget will have decreased by 70 per cent.

Savings will be made by maximising the cash the council makes from its buildings and facilities, but cuts will have to be made.

“There is nothing on this list [of savings] that keeps us awake at night,” council leader Richard Watts said during a briefing at the Town Hall on Wednesday.

Cllr Andy Hull, executive member for finance, performance and community safety, added: “We are determined to focus on dealing with Islington’s top priorities, despite ongoing government cuts to our funding, the sheer scale of which places massive pressure on budgets and services.”

The council tax rise compromises a 1.99 per cent rise by the council, as well as another 3 per cent from the government’s social care precept to help pay for adult social care. It will mean a rise of approximately £1 per week for the average Band D property in Islington. Council tax was frozen by Labour from 2010-2014.

“If we are to keep adult social care at the same level, we have to take the government’s offer,” Cllr Hull said. “But let’s be clear: this is a sticking plaster from the government – this is a national problem that needs a national solution. If we don’t do this we face large-scale service cuts and massive job losses.”

The subsidy provided to families for childcare could be scrapped in a review and the borough’s 16 children’s centres will share more of their services. These changes “could particularly impact women from lower socioeconomic groups and also lone parents”, according to the council’s report. Cllr Hull said: “We are still committed to providing all the services people need within pram-pushing distance.”

Schools and large, national charities will have to pay for their waste, but not recycling, to be taken away – something that was previously subsidised by the council – saving £600,000.

In a move set to save £1m, the council is looking to enter into a London-wide deal for procuring sexual health services. But this could “include a reduced clinical service to young people” with a “potential increase in infections, teenage pregnancies and risk to young people through limited sex and relationships education.”

Cash will be raised by introducing enforcement measures to cut rat-running and the impact of heavy goods vehicles in residential areas and the introduction of yellow box junctions.

The £40m for housing will see 131 new council homes built in the borough over the coming year, including Dover Court in Canonbury and King Square in Bunhill ward.

The council has helped more than 2,100 local people into work since 2014 with the help of government funding. This has been axed but Islington is to fund it alone with £3m.

Young people leaving care will not have to pay council tax until they are 25. 

Sam Royston, policy director at The Children’s Society, said: “To expect some of the country’s most vulnerable young people to start paying council tax just days after leaving care is setting them up to fail.

“We’re delighted that Islington Council has taken this vital step to support care leavers, and we would urge other councils to follow their lead.”

On Thursday, the budget proposals will go before the council’s Executive, before being finally debated by full council on February 23.

 

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