OPINION: Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales explains how he can continue council tax freeze
PUBLISHED: 09:00 01 March 2017
It is no secret that in Newham we face a significant financial challenge. It was with that in mind that I presented my proposed budget for the coming year to the council's cabinet last week.
We have lost almost half of our government grant funding since 2010 – that’s more than £100 million in cuts. And after this year, we still face a further £13 million reduction in our grant up to 2020.
Despite this, what I have put forward balances the books while continuing to deliver for our residents. The proposals will be discussed by full council but they:
• freeze council tax for the ninth year in a row
• do not contain an additional social care precept
• save £18.8 million, all without cutting frontline services.
This budget compares favourably with any council in the country. In a recent poll, 94 per cent of local authorities said they’d be raising council tax this year, but we’re freezing our part of it again, because it’s the right thing to do.
In last year’s budget I pledged there would be no cuts to the council’s frontline services, and I intend continuing that commitment.
We will make the savings required through back office efficiencies, by transforming the way we deliver services, through a sensible investment strategy, by generating income for the council, and by pursuing a programme of digital transformation that lets us work smarter.
But of course, the most important thing is what this proposed budget delivers for our residents. Last year, we prosecuted more criminal landlords than the rest of London put together and we issued around a third of all community protection notices in the country, cracking down on anti-social behaviour.
Crucially, we are continuing to go above and beyond our statutory responsibilities to build resilience in our community by continuing to invest in employment service Workplace to help people into jobs; continuing to support debt advice service MoneyWorks, providing access to fair credit; and continuing to invest in the Every Child programme to offer our kids the opportunities those in richer areas take for granted.
I am proud of what we are achieving. In tough times, and in the face of continued cuts, we are still delivering for our residents. More from Sir Robin