Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz and members of Newham Council’s Cabinet have agreed draft Budget proposals for the next three years that continues to invest in young people in the borough, supports the Council’s ambitious housing delivery programme, addresses air quality and the climate emergency, supports the homeless and ensures that residents in work are treated fairly.
At the centre of the proposals for the years 2020/21 to 2022/23 is the Council’s ambitious new strategy for an inclusive economy in the borough through the administration’s Community Wealth Building agenda, which seeks to transform Newham so that it becomes a more fairer and prosperous place through addressing poverty and inequality, improves the health and wellbeing of residents, and expands opportunities into skills and jobs.
Mayor Fiaz said: “The key feature of this draft Budget is about making the lives of Newham residents better. It’s about being fearless and laying the basis to address the economic, social and environmental inequalities that continue to impact upon our communities. It will ensure that all residents are approached in a way that is equal and fair.
“It is also a proposed Budget that offers certainty for the next three years to help to continue to secure the delivery of the manifesto commitments of my administration. It sets down building blocks for the future and ensures we are able to weather any potential challenging times ahead in the light of the impact of Brexit upon the UK economy, the result of the recent General Election and against the backdrop of ten years of Government austerity.”
The draft proposals show that because of Government funding cuts over the past decade, the Council still needs to save £45m by March 2023. Total savings of £36.2m have been identified which, when taken together with additional income of £9.6m from a proposed increase in Council Tax over each of the three years, would deliver the overall savings requirement.
The draft Budget also allows for growth spending of £10m each year for new services and enhancing existing ones, to deliver the Mayor’s and the administration’s priorities.
The largest proposed new investment totals almost £4.5m each year in services directly for young people. This includes £1.2m to double the number of youth zones from four to eight; £750,000 to implement recommendations from the Council’s Youth Safety Board; and £1m to fund the safeguarding adolescents’ service. A final proposed tranche of £1m per year includes support for mental health services for young people, supporting care leavers, and improving terms and conditions for foster carers.
The Mayor said: “The draft Budget builds on our commitment to ensure that Newham becomes the best possible place for our young people to grow up and keeps them safe and protected.”
Housing is another priority and £1.4m per annum is proposed to improve the services supporting rough sleepers and creating better preventative services to reduce the risk of others becoming homeless. A sum of £400,000 each year is also proposed to create a team to bring empty properties back into use to improve the range of offers for families in need.
Also included is proposed investment of £1m per year in services to tackle the climate and health emergency and improve Newham’s air quality. This includes £500,000 for weekly recycling collections and enhanced recycling facilities for flats, as well as other measures to strengthen sustainable transport and air quality improvements and more charging points for electric vehicles. Measures to encourage sustainable transport and develop healthier streets and neighbourhoods are also central to the Budget priorities, including the proposed introduction of a new emissions-based car parking charge system.
Added Mayor Fiaz: “Significantly, this is a demonstration of us putting our money where our mouth is in regards to the greatest threat facing humanity because it embeds as a key feature our response to the climate emergency with some significant proposals around investment in these areas. It is about taking rapid action to improve our air quality and deal with the unacceptably high levels of pollution which affects everyone’s health in Newham.”
An allocation of £500,000 each year is proposed to enhance street cleaning services. A further £1m is earmarked to preserve funding that purchases the services of a number of Metropolitan Police officers to support the Council’s work on dealing with anti-social behaviour and environmental crime.
The London Living Wage, a key part of the Mayor’s Community Wealth Building approach, is also set to be funded with a total of £6.5m over the three years.
The Budget proposes an increase in the Newham element of Council Tax of four per cent in each of the next three financial years. In 2020/21 this would mean a weekly increase of 78p per week for properties in the average Band D bracket.
Despite the proposed increase in Council Tax, Newham’s level is still expected to be the lowest in outer London. This does not include the element set by the Greater London Authority, and half of the proposed increase in the Newham element would be ring-fenced to spend on adult social care. There are no changes planned to the Council Tax support scheme, which means those defined as financially vulnerable would continue to receive a rebate of up to 90%.
The involvement of residents in the Budget-setting process is crucial and people are invited to have their say on the proposals at Budget Forums on 22 January at the Old Town Hall in Stratford, on 29 January at Canning Town Library, and on 30 January at East Ham Town Hall, all between 6.30pm and 9pm.
Newham’s Cabinet will meet again on 18 February to consider the outcomes of the resident engagement and scrutiny from councillors and then a final Budget will be recommended for consideration at a meeting of the Council on 2 March. The full proposals can be viewed online at www.newham.gov.uk/budget