Mayor of Hackney: In the face of Government cuts, our budget will invest in the borough's future

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The Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, explains the financial challenges facing the Council and looks ahead to the 2019/20 budget:

As councils across the country finalise their budgets for the upcoming financial year, you will once again be hearing about the tough decisions being made by councils as cuts from Central Government continue to bite.

Since 2010, the Government has cut Hackney’s grant by £140m - that’s nearly half of our external funding. In terms of our overall spending power, we’ve lost around £529 per head - the highest loss of any London borough.

While Ministers might like using the soundbite ‘austerity is over’, for local government this still couldn’t be further from the truth, and by 2022/23 they will have cut a further £30m from our budget, while demand for our services is increasing all the time. We will keep up the pressure for proper funding for our services, but that doesn’t mean we can duck the difficult decisions.

Protecting the frontline services that our residents rely on has always been our priority, whether that’s support for vulnerable children and adults, waste collections or maintaining our parks and libraries. We’ve tried to manage this huge challenge by, among other things, reducing management and back office staff, investing in services to reduce costs in the long term, bringing services back in house and renegotiating contracts. We’ve also increased the amount we raise through renting out commercial property, which now generates £7m a year for council services.

During that time we have also stuck to our values fighting against huge business rate rises and bringing in the London Living Wage for all our staff and contractors, while creating a new Hackney Apprenticeship programme for local residents.

After a decade-long freeze, we first took the difficult decision to increase Council Tax from 2016, and expect to do so again this year. This is always a difficult decision to make, because while this raises valuable funds to keep services running, we know that many of our residents are feeling the pinch too, and we want to keep your bills as low as possible. Hackney continues have one of the lowest Council Tax bills in London - this year it was the ninth cheapest out of the 32 boroughs.

Over the next few years, we will have some tough choices about how to spend our shrinking funds, and we will involve you in this process. But despite the ongoing pressures, this year’s budget is ambitious, and will see us prioritise not only the services you tell us you value, but also invest in a wide range of services, from social housing and youth clubs to our Hackney Works employment service and affordable work space for local businesses. Our 2019/20 budget will aim to make sure that Hackney continues to be a place for everyone, investing in the borough’s future and helping all of our residents access the opportunities and benefits that Hackney’s growth brings.

By investing now, we are investing in the future, to build more resilient, supportive communities, so fewer people need to rely on our services as money continues to get tighter in the years ahead.

I look forward to sharing more details about the Budget in the coming weeks, before it is debated at our Council meeting on 27 February. In the meantime, as ever, I welcome your thoughts and feedback - you can contact me via email: mayor@hackney.gov.uk