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Islington budget 2019: 2.99% council tax rise will fund social homes and core services

PUBLISHED: 18:08 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:07 11 January 2019

Cllr Andy Hull, executive member for finance, performance and community safety. Picture: Islington Council

Cllr Andy Hull, executive member for finance, performance and community safety. Picture: Islington Council

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Islington is set to raise council tax as it prepares for a further £50million of central government cuts by 2022 – but it has vowed to keep building council houses and protecting core services.

Islington is set to raise council tax as it prepares for a further £50million of central government cuts by 2022 – but it has vowed to keep building council houses and protecting core services.

The council published its budget proposals for the next three years yesterday, which include an eye-catching plan to spend £13.5m on properties in or near Islington to temporarily house people from the borough.

The draft budget reiterates the council’s desire to spend £187m building at least 550 homes for social rent, while also pledging to retain essential services such free school meals, youth centres and libraries.

“When the Prime Minister said austerity was over, she lied,” the Islington Council leader Richard Watts told the Gazette.

“But there is also some stuff we are pleased about in here like the £187m investment in on our biggest council house building program in 30 years and carrying on protecting all libraries, youth hubs and leisure centres.”

Cllr Watts is hopeful Islington can exceed its target of 550 council homes by 2022.

Asked about the purchases for temporary accommodation, Cllr Watts added: “I think it’s most important because homelessness is a massive issue and people are often being asked to live in a flats a long way from home that are not of a great standard. [...]

“So being able to buy flats means we have much more control over the quality.”

He believes this scenario will also be “cheaper because we [Islington Council] are not paying rip off rates to private developers”.

But town hall chiefs are likely to raise council by 2.99 per cent next year to fund the plans. For households in council tax Band D, with a market value between £68,001 and £88,000 (by 1991 figures), this rise could cost an extra 60p a week. But this doesn’t include the Greater London Authority’s precept: a levy funding City Hall’s running costs.

Finance chief Cllr Andy Hull stressed that those on Council Tax Support, a scheme where low-earners can get a discount from Islington, will only have to pay 6p more a week (24p a month). Cllr Hull added that Islington’s budget proposals commit to continued funding of Council Tax Support.

Cllr Watts believes most people “accept that government cuts are massive and small council tax increases are a fact of life”.

He told the Gazette: “What is incumbent [is] if you are going to put up council tax make sure we use all the money as efficiently as possible.”

The council boss earlier stressed this is about “managing problems before they get too expensive” and “spending money to save money”.

“We all know the government’s budget cuts to councils have been severe,” said Cllr Hull.

“But through careful financial management and planning, we can continue to provide good services in the coming years.

“We are committed to making Islington a fairer place for all and the investment announced in this three-year plan will allow us to concentrate on doing the things that matter most – and doing them well.”

This proposals also commit to continued funding for Islington’s work tackling serious youth violence.

Sarah Turley, who was acting as temporary street population coordinator for Islington, working with the borough’s rough sleepers, has now been offered the role permanently. She was praised for helping 34 people “get a roof over their head” in the past two years.

The budget proposals will be discussed by the cabinet on January 18 before being debated at full council on February 28.

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