Ramzy Alwakeel, Reporter
Thursday, February 28, 2013
The borough’s council tax will not go up in April, it was decided at the town hall last night.
That means 2013/14 will be the fourth financial year in a row that Havering Council has frozen rates – although a meagre central government grant means the average household bill is still among London’s highest.
The freeze was the jewel in the crown of a budget that Tories and opposition councillors alike hailed as sensible and fair.
In an uncharacteristically respectful, orderly debate, councillors from all sides praised the work of officers in delivering the freeze in such tough financial conditions. The council’s expenditure for the year will be nearly £7m higher than in 2012/13 and Havering has been dealt a poor hand by Whitehall – it will again receive less funding per head than any of its neighbouring boroughs.
To balance the books, finance boss Cllr Roger Ramsey said Havering would focus on “maximising efficiency” and “making back office savings”.
Bills will increase for some – the average council house rent will go up by 5.6 per cent, or an extra £237 a year. But council rents in Havering are likely to remain the lowest in the capital.
And the rise will be offset for some by a £163 cut in service charges.
The cost of some support services for older people will go up 3.1 per cent, but the council is investing in projects to keep people out of care and in their own homes for longer.
The new council tax bill – which is actually slightly lower than last year – means Havering is able to take advantage of a £1m grant from central government for freezing charges.
And a further bonus for building new homes to the tune of £1.5m is also on its way.
But much of the council’s funding this year will come from the sale of assets, such as office buildings made surplus by transferring staff to Mercury House.
Proposing the budget, Cllr Ramsey told the council chamber: “Setting a budget is a matter of policies, priorities and people.
“I believe we can look our taxpayers in the eye and tell them their money is safe in our hands.”
Not all London councils have set their rates for 2013/14, but the Havering figures are favourable compared with other outer London boroughs like Bromley, Croydon and Wandsworth – where council tax is increasing.