Havering Council proposes budget for the future

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Havering Council has published its budget proposals for 2020/2021, which will be considered by cabinet today and debated on February 26 for final agreement.

These proposals set out continued investment in vital frontline services as well as setting out plans for the future.

This is set against many years of austerity, where the council has had to make year on year savings. This year the council will still need to find £14.5 million savings.

The council also proposes to raise council tax by 1.95 per cent, with a total increase of 3.95 per cent when including the social care precept. This represents an increase in total of £1.07 per week on an average property.

Highlights include:

  • no library closures and longer opening hours and £375k investment in improved computer access for the public
  • more health workers
  • investment in parks
  • more homes for local people
  • significant investment in high streets
  • investing £13 million for additional council homes

Damian White, the leader of Havering Council, said: “Once again we have worked hard at presenting a balanced budget to make sure vital front line services are not affected, but at the same time finding savings.

“The good news is that the government have signified that austerity has ended and we will receive a ‘Boris bounce’ of some additional budget this year.

“However, it will not reverse the years of savings we have had to make in the past and we still need to deliver £14 million in savings to close the budget gap. This means we also once again have to raise Council Tax, continue transforming how the council works and find efficiency savings. In this we have no choice.

“However, it is not all doom and gloom and we are able to make so positive changes through sound budget management. For example, we are safeguarding our libraries and none will close. After a full consultation with residents we have now agreed to keep them open for longer, provide new community services and new IT to benefit visitors.

“We are committing to more new homes for residents that include much needed family sized properties – this includes buying back properties to increase our housing stock. And we are spending more on our parks and leisure facilities.

“What we will not change is continuing to deliver excellent front line services like social care, cleaner streets, new school places, more police officers and better roads and pavements. Despite years of cut backs by governments, we are looking to provide a positive future to the borough and its residents.”

Investing in services

The council continues to protect valued services such as the weekly bin collection and invest in additional policing. It is well on track to deliver the four year £40 million roads investment (2019/20- 2022/23) which has already seen 22,209 metres of roads and 19,956 metres of pavements resurfaced alongside over 1,000 potholes filled. The council’s Transformation Programme is delivering improvements to services as well as cash savings through efficiency.

In this year’s budget there will be additional investment in the following:

Libraries

Following extensive consultation with residents no libraries will be closed. They will instead receive additional investment:

  • of £200k to increase opening hours
  • plus an £375k for extra capital investment to improve internet access in libraries

Parks and leisure

Parks and leisure facilities will see new investment:

  • to improve Harrow Lodge Park lake and remove the silt
  • continue improvements in parks
  • obtain planning permission and build a new leisure centre in Rainham following a ‘community conversation’- keeping a promise from last year
  • complete the new Hornchurch leisure centre which will be open in the autumn. 

Housing and Regeneration

The council will continue to build new homes for local people, improve our estates and invest in our high streets, by:

  • multi-million investment from council and through town centre regeneration to support local business
  • make available a £13m pot of money to buy back much needed homes for those in need.33 former council properties have already been bought to make sure they can be used for local families that need them
  • increasing the number of affordable homes through our joint venture regeneration schemes. In particular, after listening to our residents, we have increased the number of family sized homes
  • purchasing homes on a new estate in Crow Lane, Romford to add much needed larger family homes. There is an acute shortage of four bedroom affordable housing
  • bring forward the delivery of new homes due to our unique Joint Venture arrangement with Wates.
  • develop a new Welcome and Assessment centre for homeless families in Harold Hill, so those local people who are unfortunate enough to lose their homes will have somewhere decent to stay while they find somewhere more permanent.

Public health and social care

The council will continue supporting those who are most vulnerable in our society. Additional support will be given through:

  • increasing its investment in the borough’s health visiting team by £280,000 over next three years to employ an extra 15 staff. This will include health visitors, community nurses and nursery nurses. The additional staff will support vital health and development checks for mums and babies by providing specialist support for breast feeding, maternal mental health and preparation for school
  • recruiting new Local Area Coordinators from the community, who will approach, or be introduced to people, who may be isolated, causing concern or are at risk of needing formal services. Coordinators support people to build their own vision for a good life, drawing on family and community resource, before considering statutory services. This work will lead to reduce costs for Havering as a result of people requiring less assessment, intervention and expensive ongoing care.

Savings

  • The council still needs to balance the budget and has pressures of £65 million over the next four years.
  • Most of these pressures are offset by planned savings, an additional social care grant of £3.7m and council tax with this year seeing a proposed rise of 3.95 per cent.
  • This includes the council proposed rise of 1.95 per cent and the social care precept of 2.00 per cent.
  • The council has balanced the 2020/21 budget but has a remaining gap of £17.6m which will be met by 2023/24 through continued efficiencies and other transformational savings.

Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]

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