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Public toilets, street lights and libraries facing the axe amid Havering Council budget cuts

PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 July 2018

The budget being discussed at the Havering Council cabinet meeting last night. Photo: Liam Coleman

The budget being discussed at the Havering Council cabinet meeting last night. Photo: Liam Coleman

Liam Coleman

Proposed cost-cutting ideas include closing public toilets, switching off street lights, merging libraries and childrens centres together, and increasing business rates of charity shops by 20 per cent.

Havering Council is asking residents for their views on how it can save money over the next four years.

Proposed cost-cutting ideas include closing public toilets, switching off street lights, merging libraries and childrens centres together, and increasing business rates of charity shops by 20 per cent.

Central government funding to Havering has reduced by more than £29m since 2014/15 and the council is expecting a further loss of £7m over the next two years.

One way the council is looking to save money is by reducing the number of places where customers receive face to face contact.

The council is proposing a Community Hub model, where services such as libraries, children centres, housing offices, and the public advice and service centre could all operate from one building.

It is also looking into closing public toilets and has proposed asking local cafes and pubs if the public can use their toilets instead.

A street lighting review will also look at what lights across the borough could be switched off or dimmed during darkness to save money.

Business rates for charity shops in the borough could also increase by 20 pc.

Charities and voluntary organisations receive a 20pc reduction in business rates funded by council tax, while 80pc is funded by the government.

The council tax element is discretionary and Havering is looking to potentially stop this.

Other proposals include a review of the Queen’s Theatre grants, the closure of the Chafford Sports Complex and an increased council tax premium on empty properties.

Councillor Damian White, leader of the council, said: “We are facing a dramatic reduction in the amount of Revenue Support Grant that Havering Council receives from central Government.

“By 2020/21 reform to the grant system for funding local government will mean all local authorities will need to be self-sufficient.

“This has come at a time when demand for council services is increasing due to a growing population in general, and in particular, an increase in the number of elderly and very young people in the borough.

“Many areas of the council’s budget are demand driven, particularly children and adult social care, as well as housing. We work hard to provide all key services that our residents require and we always put the needs of the borough first.

“We must in law set a balanced budget for the next financial year and to have a strategy in place for dealing with the gap over the next three financial years.

“This means making tough choices about funding local services and we need our residents and businesses to tell us what services are a priority to them, and where we should be making savings.”

The consultation will take place from Wednesday, August 1 - Sunday, September 30 and residents can either take part online or fill in paper questionnaires.

A number of consultation events will also take place.

To find out more visit www.havering.gov.uk/consultations.

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