Havering Council's budget for 2023/24, which includes an almost five per cent rise in council tax, has been dubbed one of the “most difficult in recent memory”. 

The latest budget, approved by cabinet on February 8, is set to see band D council tax bills jump by £117 to £2,088 from April. 

It also contains plans to close children’s centres, staff cuts, increased parking charges and higher rents for council tenants. 

Cabinet member for finance and transformation Cllr Chris Wilkins said the budget has been one of the “most difficult in recent memory” due to increased costs and low government funding. 

He claimed an update to government funding models would provide the council with an extra £8million.

Romford Recorder: Cllr Chris WilkinsCllr Chris Wilkins (Image: Havering Council)

When the new budget period begins in April, Havering’s overall spending power will rise by almost 10 per cent to £218m, which council leader Ray Morgon admitted is “better than expected”. 

However, although some of this will come from the government, almost 4pc will rely on residents paying 4.99pc more in council tax – the maximum increase allowed without holding a referendum. 

The Greater London Authority – run by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan – has also increased its share of council tax by almost 10pc. 

Much of the pressure on Havering Council comes from services that it is legally required to provide, such as social care for its large elderly population and fast-growing young population. 

Over the last ten years, the gap between the funding Havering needs for adult social care and the amount it receives from the government has grown as large as £20m.  

Cllr Morgon said government funding increases are still “not keeping pace” with demand, with 70pc of the money the council spends going straight on adult and children’s social care.

Earlier this week, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told the Recorder the 2023/24 local government finance settlement would see councils across England receive an additional £5.1bn compared to 2022/23, up 9.4pc. 

In a statement, it added: “After close engagement with councils, the settlement includes £2bn in additional grant funding for adult and children’s social care for 2023/24 and a one-off funding guarantee that ensures every local authority in England will see at least a 3pc increase in core spending power before any local decisions around council tax are taken.” 

Elsewhere in the budget, council tenants are set to face an increase of seven percent to both rents and charges.

Parking charges would rise by at least 60p for the first 30 minutes to an hour, with even larger increases for longer stays. 

The council proposes to cut £1.5m by “reducing or stopping services” such as Chippenham Road and Hilldene Children’s Centres. 

Plans to improve “business efficiency” aim to save £3.6m by restructuring staff in children’s social care, education, public realm, enforcement, planning, and regeneration.

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Even with “planned savings” of £28m over the next four years, the budget approved by cabinet still has a £31m predicted shortfall at the end of that timeframe. 

Chief financial officer Dave McNamara told a scrutiny committee meeting on February 7 the council’s financial position is “not sustainable” and will “deteriorate” if government funding does not increase. 

The budget will now be referred to a full council meeting for final approval on March 1.