In the good-old-days voters knew where they stood. Conservatives were heartless; Labour were warm-hearted; Resident Associations (RA) loved pavements. Happy days!
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, set Havering’s Council Tax at 3%. He imposed the principal budget item, Adult Social Care, without funding it. This budget is demand led so no-one knows how much it will eventually cost. Councillors do know Havering has the oldest population in London and dozens of Care Homes. Central government has imposed Stealth Taxes on Havering for 12 years.
A £150 million budget1 was nodded through with passionate debate about £70,000 ‘savings’ from Councillors Allowances. This would be allocated to street cleaning. An RA policy!
The 3% Council Tax increase is inadequate. Inflation is 7% rising to 10% by December. The in-coming Administration will have to make some grim decisions in October.
Council officers wrote an analysis of ‘risk’ factors for the budget.2 Item C4 refers to business rates losses, “it is hoped that the Government will fully recognise this in future settlements”. Interest rates have increased twice in three months. C8 says, “An increase in interest rates will have a direct impact on the Council’s treasury strategy.” Each 1% increase equals £1 million of additional expenditure. C19 notes a potential loss of “several million pounds” and C22 says government alteration in charging for ‘Green Waste’ will cost £800,000.
The Administration’s 400 job losses will save £7 million.3 They are, “Staffing Reductions Through Efficiency”. Achieved by removing, “activities that do not benefit residents.” Technology [has] “moved on significantly… [and] efficiencies through modernising work processes and improving service offers to our customers and partners.” A budget based on a ‘wish and prayer’.
Jeff Tucker declared he hadn’t read the budget before speaking for 25 minutes. But it was Rishi Sunak’s Stealth Taxes which needed discussing and he wasn’t present.4 So perhaps Jeff got it right.