Council jobs set to go as part of £13m savings bid

Havering Town Hall plans

Havering Town Hall - Credit: Ken Mears

Plans to cut borough staff roles and hike council tax in a bid to balance Havering’s budget have been published. 

The council said increased demand on social care as a result of the pandemic, along with runaway inflation, necessitated the measures.

According to a report, published ahead of cabinet next Wednesday, February 16, the gap will be partly closed by planned savings and additional funding from the Local Government Finance Settlement. 

An increase to council tax of 2.99 per cent – which includes the one pc social care precept recommended by central government – has also been planned. 

The total rise in council tax could be higher if the Mayor of London goes ahead with plans to increase the Greater London Authority’s precept to fund transport and policing. 

Havering plans around £13million in savings for 2022/23, more than half of which (£7m) would come from a reduction of around 400 staff roles, including an estimated 100 redundancies. 

This is to be achieved through removing vacancies, reduced dependency on agency staff and a voluntary redundancy scheme. 

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However, Havering’s chief operating officer Jane West told the Recorder compulsory redundancies could become necessary. 

A further £7m staffing reduction is planned for the following financial year. 

Despite the proposals for a balanced budget for 22/23, the council forecasts a budgetary gap of £7.9m for 2023/24, partly attributed to uncertainty regarding government support. 

Havering will receive £7.23m in 2022/23 as part of the Local Government Finance Settlement, but much of its funding has been allocated for that year alone, to allow the government flexibility to introduce distributional change through the Fair Funding Review and to fund Levelling Up policies from 23/24 onwards. 

The forecasted budget gap is also based on the assumption of no further lockdowns or severe new Covid-19 variants. 

An additional £14.3m spending related to ‘demographic pressures’ – which the council attributes to Covid-19 – is planned for 2022/23, with smaller sums of between £3m and £5m planned for subsequent years. 

But Ms West warned: “If we have another horrible variant like Delta or if the vaccines don’t work against future variants, I think we will be back to another big spike again. 

“But at the moment it would appear that the Omicron wave is dying off, there appears not to be a new variant coming up behind it.”