Havering Council is urging residents to have their say on the borough’s spending plans for 2021/22 – following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic, the Council has offered a wide range of ongoing support to vulnerable residents and local businesses. They have contacted over 10,000 residents, making over 17,000 phone calls, with 2,700 residents receiving food deliveries and pharmacy items and doing odd jobs where needed.
In addition, the Council provided more than 850 food parcels and managed the distribution of PPE across care homes, funeral directors and to frontline Council staff.
Their work to meet the challenges created by coronavirus has meant an unprecedented demand on Council staff, services and finances which could not have been imagined when last year’s budget (2020/21) was set.
The Government has provided the Council with financial support during the crisis with approximately £20 million in grants to help with general pressures, as well as a series of specific grants to support particular initiatives such as infection control, test and trace and most recently the borough’s new COVID Marshals.
This funding however is for 2020/21 only and has left the Council facing a budget gap of £27m for 21/22. In order to present a balanced budget for the coming year, the Council has identified £19million of savings and efficiencies to close the remaining gap.
The budget consultation aims to:
- Get the views of residents and businesses on our budget and savings proposals for 2021/22
- Establish how residents have been affected by the COVID pandemic; the particular pressures and hardships people may be experiencing, and to understand how the Council can help and support people in the borough next year
- Learn which council services are of most value and importance to enable us to present a budget that focuses on the real priorities of residents while allowing us to continue to provide the right support through the remainder of the pandemic.
Councillor Damian White, Leader of Havering Council, said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with challenges that we could never even have imagined a year ago. I am proud to say that through effective budgeting and the relentless hard work and dedication of Council staff, our local voluntary organisations, and other partner organisations, we have more than risen to these challenges.
“From the £1.5m Havering Helps fund, to providing food parcels and befriending support, financial support for social care providers, partnerships with volunteering and community organisations, white goods loans, provision of free school meals during half term and Christmas, not to mention our Council tax and housing support, we have helped our most vulnerable residents at the most challenging time.
“To continue to provide excellent public services, we need to ensure that we have sound public finances and so we are launching a consultation on proposed changes to the way the Council operates.
“Now, more than ever, we want residents to share their views. We want know how the pandemic has affected their lives; which services are most important and how the Council can continue to help people through these unprecedented times. By seeking the views of local people, we can listen and learn about their priorities, and we will be able to set a budget for 2021/22 that truly understands and supports the needs of our residents.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. We know that some impacts from the crisis have yet to be felt in full and we are now fighting a second wave of the virus. A balanced budget, which responds to the priorities and concerns of our residents, means we can continue to support our most vulnerable residents and set upon the recovery of our local economy and our communities, while continuing to provide key public services.”
Following the public consultation, a draft budget report for 2021/22 will go before Cabinet and (if approved) will be presented to the Full Council (Council Tax setting) meeting in February 2021.