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Challenging budget still sees investment in roads, homes, schools, police and free parking

Published: Thursday, 9 February 2023

Havering Council’s Cabinet yesterday (08/02/2023) agreed the Council’s budget for the next four years.

Despite being one of the most challenging budgets ever, the Council have a package of plans to invest in the things that residents value the most. 

These include keeping our roads and pavements repaired, making the borough safer, improving our schools, responding to climate change and building more homes.

In more detail, funding is being given to the following areas.

  • £6 million investment in roads and pavements
  • £650,000 investment to provide free parking in Hornchurch and Upminster to encourage more trade and to provide a boost for local businesses
  • £1 million to replace old lampposts with more energy efficient ones
  • Additional £50,000 to upgrade lampposts for EV charging
  • £290,000 to continue Council-funded Section 92 (S92) police officers
  • £3.5 million to push forward upgrade of CCTV in borough
  • £2.5 million for improving school classrooms and buildings
  • £2.5 million for disabled facilities in homes
  • £50,000 for school cycling and scooter schemes
  • £376,000 for solar panels on council buildings to make them more energy efficient
  • £1.2 million to remove North Street Roundabout at Romford and the underpass to improve safety and create a green space
  • £1 million for Beam Park linear green route
  • 197 of new affordable homes for Havering residents being delivered at New Green in Rainham and Park Rise in Hornchurch
  • Agreed funding from the Housing Revenue Account to build more new homes that include the 12 Estates Joint Venture with Wates, the St George’s and Bridge Close sites.

After one of the biggest consultations with residents where more than 3,000 people responded, the Council listened to views around their priorities which are reflected in the budget plans.

And residents also fed back on plans to end funding for Citizens Advice Havering and because of that, plans to cut funding will now not take place.

However, to provide a balanced budget the Council still needs to make £28.8 million of savings over the next four years.

This is due to the increase in older and children and younger persons social care costs, inflation increases and a reduction in Government funding over the years.

For the next financial year, subject to agreement at Council, it is proposed to increase Council Tax by 2.99 percent with an additional 2 percent, as set by Government, for social care – making the total proposed increase 4.99 percent. This does not include the Mayor of London’s precept. 

Council savings will also be made through being more efficient, changing how we fund and provide services and increasing our income and reducing or stopping some services.

Due to inflation, fees and charges are also increasing by 3 percent. This includes for example - cremations, green waste collections, parking and installing dropped curbs.

The Leader of Havering Council, Councillor Ray Morgon, said:

“Due to increased social care, inflation and other rising costs, this has been one of the most challenging budgets ever. This was not what we expected to see when taking office and we have had to make some very tough decisions.

“We have done all we can to try and minimise the impact on residents by ensuring front-line services carry on with continued investment in the areas residents value the most.

"This being in roads and pavements, in tackling crime, building homes and offering free parking in shopping areas that need a boost. We are also thinking about climate change and will become more energy efficient and look at improving on ways residents can travel.

“Despite a better than expected Government grant settlement with a 9 per cent increase from last year, it is still not enough to bridge the gap. We still need to make £28.8 million in savings over the next four years.

"This is because of Havering’s unique position as having one of the largest older populations and largest growing younger populations in London, putting immense pressures on social care. We will continue to lobby for a review of how this funding is allocated.

"In fact more than 2,000 people responded to our petition to encourage this change.

“We have plans in place to manage the financial gap next financial year but we also have to raise Council Tax to the highest permitted level of 4.99 per cent. This includes a 2 per cent precept for social care which is part of the Government’s package of increased investment.

“This is not where we want to be, but we have been open and honest throughout making sure residents are aware of the challenge. We have had more than 3,000 people respond to the budget consultation and we have tried to take their views on board.

"For example, we are investing in public safety, keeping our streets repaired and not cutting our funding to Citizens Advice Havering. 

“The increase in Council Tax is clearly not good news for residents because other costs have gone up. But please remember, there is support available for those who need it either through our cost of living campaign or our Council Tax team. 

“Looking ahead we will continue to lobby for more support and look at other solutions such as the East Havering Data Centre that would bring in an increase in business rates.”

The budget will now go to Council Tax Full Council on Wednesday 1 March 2023 for final agreement.