Mayor Philip Glanville responds to Budget 2021
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville responds to the 2021 Budget delivered by the Chancellor in the House of Commons this afternoon:
I welcome that the Chancellor has finally listened to our calls to extend financial support for vulnerable residents, workers and businesses struggling through the coronavirus pandemic – in particular the £20 increase in Universal Credit, though only until September, and further business rates holiday.
I wrote to the Government in January urging them to extend rate relief to avoid needlessly putting Hackney jobs and businesses at risk, and I welcome that this support has been extended in full for another three months. But reducing this discount from July is too soon for many of our businesses, who will need months to recover, even after they have reopened. It also does not align with the welcome extension of the furlough scheme to the end of September.
It’s disappointing that it’s taken ministers until now – just weeks before support was due to end – to make these decisions, leaving families worrying about putting food on the table and businesses facing invidious decisions about furloughed staff and their financial future. We’ll work as quickly as possible to get additional funding and grants announced today to those who need it.
After a year when Hackney’s key workers have put themselves at risk to save lives and keep our borough moving, freezing the income tax threshold and public sector pay is a kick in the teeth for our borough’s nurses, teachers and frontline waste, parks and care workers.
Today’s measures are sticking plasters rather than long-term reforms to restructure our economy. In Hackney, we recognise that things can’t simply return to normal, which is why we used the Council’s Budget last week to focus firmly on tackling poverty and inequality and set out our plans to rebuild a greener, fairer, safer and healthier borough.
While the Government has provided emergency funding for councils delivering essential services over the last year, in Hackney we still need to make savings of £11million next year as ministers’ decade of austerity rumbles on. And it’s astounding that in the middle of tackling a pandemic, the Chancellor has still not told councils what their public health funding will be from next month – let alone committed to fund public services properly at the time people are desperately relying on them.
With councils elsewhere facing bankruptcy and stark challenges, the Government cannot put off its review of long-term local authority funding forever. Today there was no mention of the huge funding gaps in places like Hackney to deliver adult social care or provide support for children with special educational needs.
I welcome the extension of the stamp duty holiday, which will help buyers in Hackney delayed by the effect of a serious cyberattack on our land search system. And while I agree that it’s important to help young families onto the housing ladder – particularly private renters paying eye-watering rents – I have to question whether it’s a good use of public money to prop up a failing housing market by underwriting dangerously debt-loaded 95% mortgages rather than funding a new generation of genuinely affordable Council homes, with the huge number of jobs that come with their construction.
On welfare and on housing, our country needs a long-term plan after the emergency measures finish, which stops the cycle of homelessness and sees a permanent end to the social insecurity system and Section 21 no-fault evictions. Today, that vision was sadly lacking.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, ministers have been late to react – late on introducing restrictions, late on testing, late on working with local government and late on giving financial certainty to our residents and businesses. Following today’s announcements, local councils like Hackney will do what we always do – work quickly to support those who need our help as soon as we receive more information from ministers.
The Council’s Budget for 2021/22 was approved last week, setting out a range of investments to continue to support vulnerable residents. It also included a rise of 4.99% in Council Tax – less than £1 a week for the average Hackney resident – to help fill a £58million gap in funding for frontline services, in part caused by 11 years of core government funding cuts.
The increase in council tax will help to address government cuts which have seen the Council’s core grant shrink by half since 2010, whilst demand for services has increased dramatically.
Hackney will still have one of the lowest Council Tax rates in London, and the Council is putting extra money into supporting the thousands of working-age households on the lowest incomes, and who already receive up to a 85% discount, by reducing their bill by a further £60 a year. It will also see an extra £900,000 invested this year in tackling inequality and poverty.