On Wednesday of last week, the Council passed the Budget for 2014/15.
There is £1.1bn of spending in the budget on vital services in Hackney including:
- £47.7m on the public realm including street cleaning, graffiti removal, maintaining street lights, recycling, providing cycle training for local residents
- £86m on adult social care, including support for residents to live as independently as possible, mental health services and services for people with learning disabilities
- £7.7m on libraries, museums and culture
- £7.5m on managing Hackney’s 56 parks
- £29.8m on public health services, including sexual health services, reducing obesity, helping people to stop smoking and drug and alcohol misuse services
- £254m on schools
- £6.7m on environmental health, licensing and planning
- £41.5m on children’s social care
- £16m on the Young Hackney service
- £4.6m on community safety, the integrated gangs unit, domestic violence response and emergency planning.
Council tax has also been frozen for the ninth consecutive year. At the budget meeting, Mayor Pipe made it clear that increasing Council Tax would not have made up for the scale of cuts imposed on Hackney by central Government. He said: "Increasing Council Tax at this time would add more financial pressure to those in need, for little benefit to services. Despite collecting 97% of what is owed each year, a 2% rise in Council Tax bills would yield only £360,000 extra which is dwarfed by the £100m cut in central Government grant."
There have been unprecedented cuts to council funding from the Coalition Government since 2010 and £100m has been cut from Hackney’s grant. The cuts have been disproportionately high in some of the most deprived areas of the country, and there has been a sustained attempt from central Government to permanently reduce the size and scope of local services. As Jules Pipe set out when introducing the budget, the priority in Hackney has been to keep providing services that residents depend on, finding new ways of working and new sources of funding.
He said: “We have had to make tough decisions and we have seen job losses, in common with many local authorities up and down the country, and it is clear that we will have to make further tough decisions in the future. Our priority over the coming year is to protect the services that matter most to them, to keep our streets clean, keep our parks and libraries open and welcoming and to care for the most vulnerable members of our community.”
The Tory and Lib Dem groups on the Council put forward amendments to the budget. These included measures such as stopping 20mph zones, Controlled Parking Zones, cutting the street cleaning budget, and the highways maintenance budget. This would have a big material impact on our environment in Hackney and is a reckless approach.