“No one could have prepared us for Covid but we have managed to support our residents during a really challenging time and now we are also able to deliver a vital budget,” said Havering’s Leader of the Council Councillor Damian White.
Havering Council’s Cabinet have agreed a budget that ensures residents continue to receive the everyday services they value and rely on.
This is despite the financial challenges of Covid-19 and is down to the Council’s efficient financial management and support during the pandemic from the Government.
“One thing Covid has shown us is just how important local governments are, they are the glue that binds our country together. We would not have been able to do these lock downs without local governments being in place,” Councillor White told the Havering Daily.
The budget proposals include boosts for important areas such as continued investment in the borough’s roads, more investment in community safety and enforcement, parks and leisure.
An additional £10million of capital expenditure has been agreed to make sure the road and pavement improvement programme continues over the next two years. So far 60 miles of the worst roads and pavements have been improved since 2019, and this money makes sure that more residents will benefit from these improvements.
Public order and enforcement will see an extra £5m for new CCTV cameras across the borough to replace the currently aging system. And funding of £300k per annum will continue for six dedicated police officers to continue to respond to Havering specific issues.
Following the upcoming opening of the new Harrow Lodge Leisure Centre in Hornchurch, the budget proposals include the necessary funding to open a new multimillion pound leisure centre in the South of the borough at Rainham in 2022.
“We will be the first in the country to have a brand new state of the art modular leisure centre in Rainham,” continued Councillor White.
The Council will still deliver weekly rubbish collections and street cleaning will be maintained at the current levels after seeing investment in the last budget.
The borough’s loved parks will see continued investment of £2 million. Last year two new green flags were won and the Council will make sure that the borough’s parks and playing fields will remain great places for people to enjoy and exercise in, subject to Covid restrictions.
Importantly, support for the borough’s communities will continue with funding for the new Virtual Community Hub being maintained and four additional Local Area Coordinators being recruited for the Harold Hill, Rainham and South Hornchurch areas.
The Council will continue to offer free parking on Sundays, free parking in on-street bays in Romford, Hornchurch and Rainham, a 20% discount for all those using the online parking app and free parking to our key worker heroes.
The Council will maintain its status as one of the most efficient in the country. This includes continued improvement in technology so Council staff can better support residents. The Council will also look at how it uses its buildings and front line services such as libraries to make it easier for residents to access services.
Havering Council will still need to make further savings and efficiencies of £17.1 million pounds as part of these proposals which will come from greater efficiency, the continued transformation of how the Council delivers services to the borough’s communities, and improved technology to offer 24/7 online access for residents.
As part of this, the Council will also have to consider a general Council tax increase of 1.50%. The Council tax will increase by a further 3% specifically to fund Social Care which is how central government has asked authorities to bridge their funding gaps for this area.
Following Cabinet agreement this will go to the annual Council Tax Council for final agreement by councillors.
Councillor Damian White, the Leader of the Council, said:
“I am really proud of how the Council has responded to the financial pressures we face. During this time we have still been able to invest in our roads, parks, public safety and communities. We will still deliver the services that matter most like weekly rubbish collections, excellent leisure facilities and green spaces as well as support for the most vulnerable.
“This is set against a backdrop of our response to the pandemic where we have been able to support residents through the Havering Helps scheme. This has included help to buy food, school uniforms, and provide cash to pay for utility bills and repairing and replacing white goods. As part of our support during these difficult times we have also been providing free school meals when needed most.
“Before this we had some tough years and Covid has added to the pressures on our finances. We have had support from the Government, but it is still not enough to bridge the financial gap, meaning we still needed to make £17.1 million in savings. This means we will have to find other ways of doing things such as continued efficient running of services, investment in technology and looking at how we use our buildings better to deliver these services in our communities.
“It will also mean, with regret, a proposed increase in Council tax of 1.50%. There is also an additional 3% Government precept to support one of the most costly but important services, social care.
“However, as one of the most efficient councils in the country, I am confident this can be achieved while we still continue to deliver the services residents value and need.”
The budget proposals were recommended by cabinet members to full council to be discussed in two weeks time.
Councillor White finished by saying: “Thanks to the careful stewardship by the council and its amazing team of officials we have managed to get through a very difficult period and still put forward a strong budget that makes us one of the best boroughs by far.”
Leader of the Opposition Councillor Ray Morgon added:
“Although we live in difficult and unusual times, many residents in Havering will be shocked by a 4.5% rise in council tax (5.43% including the Mayor of London’s increase), coupled with some above inflation rises in various fees and charges, whilst at the same time having reductions in services as a result of the £17 million reduction in the budget.
Whilst the Council claims to be the most efficient Council in London, residents, businesses and my fellow Councillors, see countless examples every single week where the level of service is far from efficient or effective. This is particularly true in relation to repairs to potholes which are often now taking months to mend increasing the likelihood of claims against the Council”