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Supporting you in taxing times
'May you live in interesting times' is often quoted as an old Chinese proverb. In fact it is meant as a curse - and the times today are very interesting indeed.
Over the past couple of years the Government has had to borrow billions of pounds to get us out of the mess created by our bankers. Incidentally, if you hear somebody say bankers are not so bad you bet your life they're wealthy! For those of us who live in the real world, the stupidity and greed of bankers has left us facing a difficult future.
We know that there will be big cuts in public expenditure over the next couple of years to pay for the bankers' mess, which means that Newham Council (which receives the bulk of its money from the Government) will have less money to invest in our community.
We have been working pretty hard to prepare for this. We have saved money by becoming more efficient. For example, we moved many of our staff into a single building which has already resulted in considerable savings - and more are to come.
Even as we save I have tried really hard to make sure that we have not hit the services which matter to residents.
We continue to spend money to protect our children and older residents. We have improved our street cleaning and have spent more on reducing crime and anti-social behaviour (you should now be seeing the impact of this, for example through fewer bags of rubbish left on our streets). And we have introduced free school meals in our primary schools which is a major step towards reducing the levels of child poverty in this borough.
But times are still tough and I have had to consider whether to increase Council Tax this year. Yes the council could do with the money to protect services. Yes we could do with more money to do more things. But life is hard for lots of people at the moment and I have decided that it would just not be right to increase Council Tax this year. As a result I have decided to freeze Council Tax for the second year in a row. Because we've prepared for what's to come we can afford to stick at a zero per cent increase - giving families more pounds in their pocket.
Despite living in interesting times, I believe this council can continue to be bold, brave and ambitious on behalf of the whole community. I'm looking forward to the year ahead.
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