Hackney freezes Council Tax for fifth year
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of speaking in the debate at full Council in Hackney on setting the council's budget.
Until eight years ago when Labour retook control from a chaotic hung council, budget nights in Hackney were characterised by mass protests against sweeping service cuts, the setting of absurdly overoptimistic council tax collection rates that then led to in-year £50 million budget blackholes, and on some occasions the protection of the Town Hall by riot police.
This year, we voted for a Council Tax freeze for an unprecedented fifth year, and with no cuts for the fifth year. This is thanks to one of the most extensive efficiency drives of any local authority in the UK.
Spending decisions included:
- More homecare hours, keeping older and disabled residents living in their own home, independent, and ensuring that they stay part of their existing communities.
- Another investment in our youth service, with £5 million being spent on building or refurbishing youth centres - and we've now added £1 million each year since 2006 on increasing the number of activities for young people in Hackney.
- More money to improve street cleanliness - making sure our streets and public spaces are kept clean and safe for all our residents.
- Around £9 million to be spent on youth intervention, both in terms of positive activities for young people and also diverting those who have become involved in gangs and criminal activity. This is part of £25 million being spent on community safety - that's on top of the police's budget.
- 3 secondary schools being refurbished this year as part of a £170 million schools investment programme.
- Ensuring enough money to keep the levels of recycling going up - with estate recycling fully funded for another year.
The Tories - the main opposition group with nine councillors - did not propose a budget at all, for the first time in anyone's memory.