New budget set to rebuild a better Hackney
Councillors and the Mayor agreed the budget for the year ahead, which outline the significant investments the Council is making to rebuild a greener, fairer, safer and healthier Hackney out of the Covid pandemic and in the face of ongoing Government core funding cuts.
The Council’s budget for the coming year was heard at Full Council last night (24 February), and included a Council Tax increase of 4.99%. It means most residents will pay less than £1 extra a week, but will ensure the Council can raise more than £4m to fund essential services to all residents at a time when they need them most.
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 percent 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.
The Council has injected tens of millions of pounds into supporting residents and businesses during the Covid pandemic, prioritising those who need help most: including providing thousands of essentials and supplies to households and keeping services running in immensely challenging circumstances.
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on all of us, and our residents and businesses continue to suffer from the wider fallout. It has also been an incredibly tough 12 months for the Council and our staff: responding to the economic and social impact of the Covid pandemic, as well as responding to the increasing demand for our services.
We have been working tirelessly to make savings behind the scenes to ensure frontline services continue to function well and that we can keep supporting our most vulnerable. However, we still need to make nearly £11m of savings this financial year.
When the Government confirmed funding for local councils last year, it was on the assumption that we would increase Council Tax. If we don’t, we simply won’t have the money to provide the important services we all need.
So it is therefore, with reluctance, that we increase Council Tax for this year by 4.99 percent. The increase was a difficult decision for us to make. We know that many across the borough are struggling financially, but we are coupling this increase with extra investment in support for those on the lowest incomes.
Despite the increasingly challenging circumstances, our budget will demonstrate that we are still ambitious for Hackney and it includes investment decisions that will benefit all of Hackney’s residents and businesses next year and for the rest of the decade.
We also see the pandemic as a means to addressing the stark inequalities this crisis has revealed and rebuild a better Hackney out of it. The Council’s mission is to fight for communities who continue to need support, ensuring the borough becomes even safer and healthier; using our powers to create a fairer economy; and ensuring Hackney’s recovery is a green one.
Our budget demonstrates that commitment, including our huge investment in looking after vulnerable children and adults; on temporary accommodation for homeless families; and other vital services that the Government continues to inadequately fund.
We will also continue to invest in the services we all value, that keep us safe and healthy, and which make Hackney such a great place to live: such as street cleaning, waste collection; looking after our six markets; our 58 parks, gardens and green open spaces - ever more important as our residents have relied on our open spaces even more during the pandemic - and maintaining our seven sports and leisure centres.
We will make Hackney fairer by improving existing social housing and continuing to build genuinely affordable new Council homes of which more than 50 percent will be for social rent, shared ownership and Hackney Living Rent. And by continuing to invest in our skills and employment services to ensure that Hackney residents get the help they need if they have lost their job or need more support.
The Council declared a climate emergency two years ago, and making our borough greener and more sustainable runs through the heart of this budget. For example, we will be rolling-out free home insulation to those who qualify for the Green Homes Grant; and delivering solar panel installation on the Council’s existing roof spaces. We are also switching to fortnightly waste collection, while maintaining weekly recyclable and food collections; and planting 1000s of new trees this year.