Havering Council approves ‘ambitious’ budget and 3.25% increase in council tax increase
- Credit: Archant
Councillors voted to approve Havering’s budget which will see the end of free short stay parking in Upminster and Hornchurch and a 3.25 per cent increase in council tax.
Many councillors welcomed “innovative ideas” in the proposed budget such as plans for a new leisure facility in Hornchurch, a £250,000 investment in improving CCTV in the borough and improvements to street cleaning.
Councillor Damian White, leader of the council, began the discussion at a full council meeting on Wednesday, February 27, by referencing the £37million gap in funding the cabinet had to address.
He said: “The questions that we faced were how do we make required savings while protecting what’s important to our residents.
“This budget is not about savings and cuts but about putting our residents at the very heart of what we do as an organisation.
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“Despite investing some two million a year in the up-keep of our highways it’s no longer enough. I’m proposing we invest some £40million to tackle what would otherwise become a major issue for our residents.
“It is an ambitious budget that will bring significant improvements to all parts of the borough with investment in neighbourhoods, job creation and more genuinely affordable housing.”
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The budget proposed to increase council tax by 3.25pc to meet the rising costs of providing care and support for residents.
Conservative Cllr Viddy Persaud said: “One of the first challenges was to set a budget hat would bridge the gap of £37million.
“Our residents told us loud and clear that they want to live in a place that is safer and cleaner with better roads and all of this comes at a cost.
“This budget we are presenting has a vision to deliver on our resident’s priorities and bridge that gap of £37million.”
The Residents’ Group, Independent Residents’ Group and the Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Association Group submitted an amendment with a proposed alternative budget.
Councillors offered their support to Cllr Clarence Barrett who had put many hours into developing the alternative budget but was unable to attend the meeting due to an illness.
“Although I accept that our amendment is relatively small when put against the multi-million pound budget, nonetheless the changes we have put forward has a positive affect on Hornchurch and town centres, without any impact on front line services,” said Cllr Ray Morgon.
He called on the leader of the council to listen to the thousands of residents who have either signed an online petition that was set up by a local businessman and a paper petition.
“There was a genuine fear that this could the decline of our town centre,” he added.
Cllr Keith Darvill, Labour, told councillors that guidance on making changes to parking charges from the British Parking Association, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Welsh Assembly highlighted the importance of gathering data.
“Each area is different. Areas that are near areas where it’s free will be adversely impacted,” said Cllr Darvill.
“It’s the wrong time to do this and it’s too hasty.”
Cllr Tele Lawal, also Labour, added: “I’m not proposed to some of the innovative ideas but I could never go against having 30min of free parking.
“Hornchurch has more [small or medium-sized] businesses, I don’t know how you can compare that to Romford.”
The opposition group’s amendment to the budget did not carry with 28 votes against and 24 in favour, and the Conservative’s motion on increasing council tax passed with 29 votes in favour and 18 against.