Council tax to rise as Islington Council announces cuts of £32million

Islington Town Hall. Picture: Sam Gelder

Islington Town Hall. Picture: Sam Gelder - Credit: Archant

A rise in council tax is on the way as cash-strapped Islington Council looks to balance the books by making cuts to the tune of £32million.

Cllrs Andy Hull and Richard Watts, pictured a year ago, gave a briefing on the 2018/19 budget. Pictu

Cllrs Andy Hull and Richard Watts, pictured a year ago, gave a briefing on the 2018/19 budget. Picture: Islington Council - Credit: Archant

Budget proposals for the coming year show town hall chiefs are targeting savings in social care, as well as cutting contracts and charging double council tax on empty homes.

But the budget also sees £57million signed off to pay for 200 new council homes across estates, as well as a £14m pot to pay for the new Tufnell Park Primary School.

The biggest saving, of £8m, will be made by using Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) payments to fund projects across the borough. The cash, paid by developers to mitigate the impact of building works, has until now been used solely to benefit the area in the vicinity of the works.

At the town hall today, leader Cllr Richard Watts told the Gazette he did not yet know how much council tax would go up as the “incompetent” government only published the provisional grant figures on December 20.

“I’m a reluctant council tax riser because it’s a regressive tax,” Cllr Watts said. “But it’s about striking a balance between an increase and protecting the services people rely on.”

The government has announced that this year council tax can increase up to 2.99 per cent without the need for a costly referendum, which Cllr Watts and finance chief Cllr Andy Hull ruled out. The limit was previously 1.99pc.

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“A 1pc rise means a 20p per week rise for a Band D property,” Cllr Watts added. “And each 1pc rise will bring in £800,000 of additional income.”

Foster carers will no longer have to pay council tax, though. That will be funded by doubling the amount people with empty homes have to pay. Islington has 250 to 300 empty homes, mostly new builds in the south of the borough. That could bring in about £185,000 if the government gives the scheme the green light.

Changes to the social care system will also save millions. Drug and alcohol support will be combined, with the nine separate contracts for the service replaced by a big one worth £23.75m, most of which will go to the NHS.

“We’re not cutting back social care offering,” Cllr Watts said. “But it’s going to be done in a different way.”

That includes bringing people in residential care in other parts of the country back to Islington and placing them in the council’s own accommodation.

Cllr Watts said the £32m savings would not have a negative impact on people’s lives but said years of austerity from the government was putting severe strain on councils at a time when there was a serious rise in demand for services.

He said: “It’s the slow grind of austerity that worries me rather than any individual appalling cuts.”

Sixty-seven town hall posts will also go, 36 of which are currently unfilled. The £500,000 a year project to tackle youth crime has been protected.