Hackney Council passes 2016/17 budget
Hackney Council last night approved a budget that will save £22 million over the coming year, while continuing to maintain frontline services and keep the borough clean, green and a great place to live, work and visit.
Central Government cuts mean that in 2016/17 Hackney must work with £110m less a year than in 2010, while rising costs and increased demand for services has added a further £42m of expenditure for the Council to find each year.In spite of these challenges, the 2016/17 budget will sustain and deliver the vital services the Council provides and on which its most vulnerable residents rely.
The Council also agreed to increase Council Tax for the first time in over a decade. The two per cent increase will go directly towards funding the rising cost of services for older and disabled adults. Government funding is based on the assumption that councils will apply this increase, which it calls an ‘adult social care precept’. Although Hackney’s element of the Council Tax will rise slightly, other reductions mean that average bills will rise by less than £1 a year.
In presenting the budget to Council, Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe, explained how savings for the next 12 months have been found. This includes continued back office savings, renegotiating contracts, reducing the amount of office space the Council uses and ensuring services are run as efficiently as possible. Service reviews have found new ways of using existing expenditure to improve, or at least maintain at reduced cost, front-line services.
He also explained how further savings will be necessary in future years, between 2017-2020, the period of the current Government funding arrangement.
Hackney continues to be hit hard by Central Government cuts and it’s not mathematically possible to go on making up the shortfall through efficiency measures alone. Along with the rest of local government, we are always making the case to Central Government that greater funding, not less, is required. We have been clear that if the Government doesn’t change its approach to local government funding, budgets in the future are going to require difficult choices.
Raising Council Tax for the first time in over a decade was a hard decision because we recognise the pressure that residents are still under, particularly when the cost of living rises faster than wages. Unfortunately, this year’s Government funding is based on the assumption that councils will introduce a two per cent increase for funding the costs of adult social care.
However, freezing Council Tax for so long has saved Band D tax payers around £1,400 over 10 years, and the Council’s £20 a year increase (for a Band D property) will be almost entirely offset by the decrease in the GLA element of the charge.
In the face of unprecedented Government cuts, we also have to be realistic about the rising costs and increased demand for our services. Services like temporary accommodation for homeless people, social care for children and adults, and concessionary travel are among the most important things we fund and require some of the largest budgets of the Council. These vital areas of expenditure present bigger pressures every year, so we’re having to think carefully about how in future we can fund and operate other, discretionary services. Where changes are being considered for future years, we will consult with residents to ensure their views and concerns are taken into account.
In spite of the challenges, we’ve agreed a budget which I believe reflects residents’ priorities. It will see our streets kept clean, our green spaces maintained, continued weekly waste collections, as well as ambitious projects including the provision of extra primary school places, two brand new secondary schools and 3,000 new homes built. But above all, this budget seeks to protect the most important services we provide, which is care and support for our most vulnerable adults and children.