Havering residents to face council tax increase

Havering Town Hall

Havering Town Hall - Credit: Ken Mears

Havering residents are set to face a council tax rise after councillors approved a recommendation to increase the amount people have to pay.

A report published ahead of Wednesday's cabinet meeting revealed council plans to raise the tax by 1.5 per cent for general services, as well as a 3pc precept towards the cost of social care. 

Combined with the Greater London Authority proposing to raise its portion of council tax by 9.5pc, residents in Havering are facing a 5.4pc rise which equates to just less than £100 in the year for band D households.

Labour group leader Keith Darvill said the proposed rise is "hard" on residents and claimed that it was an "absolute disgrace" for councils to be able to charge the extra 3pc for adult social care.

A council spokesperson said the government had made it clear to the council in its financial settlement that it is expecting local authorities to use the 3pc precept.

They added: "Given the sources of financing that we've got open to us, council tax is our only other variable that we can control.

"To not bring in that precept would be a very brave move in the current situation that we're in in terms of financing.

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"It's not something that we would by choice go out and say we're going to add three per cent on our council tax, it's something the government have set out that local authorities can do to help gather funds to pay for the costs.

"The cost of social care will only keep going up. Havering has got one of the oldest populations in London so it's very important we provide the right care for that age group."

Residents' Group leader Ray Morgon said the increase was in line with many other councils but said it was important for a balance between ensuring enough funds to deliver services whilst bearing in mind many people have lost their jobs or are on reduced income.

The report also revealed that the council is estimating a £9.9million overspend for the current financial year, with £3.9m of this due to the net cost of Covid-19 and £6m from 'business as usual' spending.

It added that this budget gap is set to be covered from the council's reserves but hoped to "significantly" reduce this amount by the end of the year.

The council's investment during the pandemic has included £1.5million into the Havering Helps scheme, which increased support to residents in need at the very outset of the outbreak.

The report said the authority has also supported food banks, provided funding to enable leisure centres to open when restrictions were lifted and offered free parking to key workers as well as on Sundays for all.

The spokesperson said: "There's still a couple of months to go and in Covid, that is a long time.

"It will be constantly scrutinising what we are spending, council services are looking at every penny, we're looking at maximising what we can get in terms of utilising grant funding and the monies we're getting from the government.

"In previous years, the council has done a great job at building up its reserves. Reserves are there to help in times of crisis and we've had a crisis."

Council leader Damian White praised the authority's staff for their efforts in delivering "vital" services for residents.

He said: “We have had some hard years in the past that became even harder as the pandemic hit us.

"However, our sound financial planning and additional support from the government has meant we have continued to provide the services residents want.

“The proposals being put forward take all this into account and I am proud of how we have responded in these difficult times."

The budget recommendations were approved and will now be voted on at the next meeting of full council.

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