Redbridge Council outlines investment plans for budget

Redbridge Council plans to invest millions in housing, roads and more in its proposed budget for next year.

This will be funded by a 3.99 per cent increase in council tax, 2 per cent of which is a precept ring-fenced for adult social care.

The 1.99 per cent for council services is close to the 2 per cent threshold the council can levy without a local referendum.

This means an average Band D household will pay an extra £51 to the council over the year from April. A further amount is levied by the Greater London Authority.

The council says it is determined not to cut frontline services such as weekly bin collections or libraries, despite having to save more than £180 million in less than a decade.

In a briefing last night, council leader Jas Athwal (Lab, Mayfield) said: “The national funding formula treats Redbridge as the leafy, affluent outer-London borough of two generations ago.

“We have the eighth lowest-level of funding per head of population of any unitary council in the country and are among the lowest-funded councils for both adults and children’s social care.

“But our services are in the top five per cent in the country year on year. All our libraries are still open, our bins are still collected weekly and we have free first-hour parking on the high street.

“There is a long way to go for us, I fully understand that. I walk the same streets our residents walk. But I also see some of the brutal cuts that go on elsewhere.”

He explained that the council had cut £28 million from its wage bill alone by driving for more permanent and fewer interim staff.

Housing

A large chunk of the council’s investment will be in housing, building new council properties and spending £5.5 million alone buying up temporary accommodation.

Cllr Athwal explained residents currently relying on temporary accommodation were often staying in “squalid hotels” at great cost to the borough.

The council hopes to make sure children do not have to commute across London into school and save money that would otherwise have been spent on nightly lets. 

It is hoped this will also reduce the number of tenants being placed in Redbridge by other boroughs, which Cllr Athwal said contributed to growing pressures on the borough’s schools.

He added: “Historically, Redbridge has been one of the lowest housebuilders, it is the most overcrowded borough in London because we never built.

“Our 104,000 livable units are way less than similar boroughs of our size. What we are doing is making sure we are catching up.”

Roads

The council plans to spend £6 million resurfacing the area’s highest priority roads this year, as part of a £10 million overall investment.

Cllr Athwal explained: “Every year the maintenance budget goes up. We took a decision to proactively resurface.”

A total of £14.9 million will be invested in the Ilford Gyratory project to “make traffic move smoothly” in Ilford town centre.

The council will create new cycle lanes and new bridges over the River Roding, creating better access to neighbourhoods north of the centre.

One million will also be invested in street sweepers, local enforcement teams and tree planting to “take more control of neighbourhoods”.

Other expenditures include a £250,000 cash injection to create a fast charging hub for electric vehicles at the Ley Street Depot in Ilford.

The council also plans to spend £2.5 million on “business and enterprise hubs”, to provide workspace at affordable rents and generate income.

Meanwhile public services, such as GPs, libraries and leisure centres, will operate out of the same building after six new “community hubs” are completed.

The proposed budget will be discussed at a meeting of the full council on February 27.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter