Havering Council has agreed a budget that ensures residents continue to receive the everyday services they value and rely on.
At the annual Council tax setting Full Council meeting on Wednesday 3 March, the draft budget for 2021/22 was passed with 30 to 7 votes (17 abstaining).
The budget continues to invest in the things that matter most to residents despite the financial challenges of COVID-19. This is down to the Council’s efficient financial management and support during the pandemic from the Government.
The budget includes 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 year will continue for six dedicated police officers to continue to respond to Havering specific issues.
Following the opening of the new Harrow Lodge leisure centre in Hornchurch, the budget proposals include the necessary funding to open a new multi-million pound leisure centre in the South of the borough at Rainham in 2022.
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, as they have provide such welcome outside space for people’s exercise and wellbeing during the pandemic, subject to Covid restrictions.
As a lasting memory of all of the residents lost to Covid, the Council will be creating a new memorial garden– planting one tree for every person who has died during the pandemic.
There will also be recognition of the Government’s change in law for use of electric cars over petrol by 2030. Over the next two years – new electric car charging points will be installed in all council carparks and on new council led housing developments. The Council will also bring in a new team to help with flood defence and response – while extra gulley suckers will be bought to boost the borough’s flood prevention programme.
Importantly, and as part of Covid recovery, 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 selected on-street bays in Romford, Hornchurch and Rainham, a 20 per cent discount for all those using the online parking app RingGo and free parking to our key worker heroes.
Following the Government’s announcement of the roadmap to recovery, from 12 April, the Council will also be offering free parking for a month to support the reopening of the high streets.
Havering will maintain its status as one of the most efficient councils in the country. This includes continued improvement in technology so staff can better support residents.
The Council will also look at how it uses its buildings and runs its 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 has agreed a general Council tax increase of 1.50 per cent. The Council tax will increase by a further 3 per cent specifically to fund Social Care which is how central government has asked authorities to bridge their funding gaps for this area.
Councillor Damian White, the Leader of the Council, said:
“It has been a tough year for many and I am proud of how the Council has responded to this. I am also proud that we can still offer the services that residents value. This is despite having to respond to all the challenges the pandemic has brought while still keeping our key services running.
“I therefore would like to thank everybody for everything they have done to ensure that the most vulnerable are supported and important services like rubbish collections and road repairs continue.
“We still need to make savings, and unfortunately we still need to increase council tax to 4.5%, when you include the social care precept. Otherwise, we would have to cut back services.
“It is not all doom and gloom though, and we can hopefully look forward to a brighter future. This includes continued investment in public safety, leisure, parks and our communities. We will help residents and businesses as our town centres come out of lockdown with a month’s free parking, while still offering free parking on Sundays and discounted parking – through the app. We will also make sure our weekly rubbish collections and enhanced street cleaning continue.
“This has been a tragic time for so many but we have also seen the fantastic Havering spirit – with the community coming together like never before. Therefore – I want our borough to have a lasting memorial garden by planting a tree for each resident lost to the pandemic.
“This budget allows us to continue on the path to a greener Havering – with plans to roll out electric charging points across the borough over the next two years. We will improve our flood prevention and response capabilities – by bringing in more staff and new equipment. This means residents who have been so badly affected by flooding over the past year can feel safe in their homes in future.
“Our Council will go on to support the recovery not only locally but nationally too. We pledge to make sure we buy British as much possible during both our regeneration projects and with our other work. This means Havering will be doing its bit to help the local and national economy back on its feet.
“As we look ahead – I want to make sure our Council is there for residents and businesses with the services and help that matters. This budget enables us to continue to deliver for our residents, while setting us on an ambitious path out of the pandemic.”