Islington council tax set to go up 5pc from April

Cllrs Andy Hull and Richard Watts promised after this afternoon's 2017/18 budget proposal: 'We make

Cllrs Andy Hull and Richard Watts promised after this afternoon's 2017/18 budget proposal: 'We make sure we spend every penny well.' Picture: Islington Council - Credit: Archant

Islington homeowners and tenants face a five per cent council tax increase – but town hall leaders promised there will be no cuts to frontline services.

Announcing their 2017/18 budget plans in a meeting with the Gazette this afternoon, council leader Richard Watts and finance boss Cllr Andy Hull said it was necessary after another £21.5million central government funding slash.

It means a Band D property faces an increase of about £1 a week, but Cllr Hull said: “I understand people will be unhappy at a council tax rise. But if we didn’t do that, people would be even more unhappy at the services we would have to cut – and no high-profile council services are being cut by this budget.

“We make sure we spend every penny well, and that’s why we focus on efficiency to save money. And remember, this is against a backdrop of council tax being frozen in Islington between 2010/11 and 2014/15.”

The 4.99pc increase consists of 1.99pc from the council, with another 3pc as it applies the government’s social care precept to help pay for adult social care.

Cllr Watts said: “It’s the government’s way of paying for the social care crisis in this country, and – like many other councils – we have no choice but to take it. As the pressure grows from Tory cuts to the NHS, this crisis becomes ever more real and applying the precept is the only option we have.”

Among the key budget proposals are £40m set aside to continue the council’s affordable house building programme, £3m towards its employment services and scrapping council tax for young people leaving care as they make the transition to adulthood – meaning they will not have to pay council tax until they are 25.

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In addition, £33.5m will be dedicated to major housing works and improvements. This includes particular focus on damp properties in Holloway’s Andover Estate and Archway’s Girdlestone Estate.

Cllr Watts, who admitted in July that much of the council’s housing stock has “real problems” with damp, said: “No one is kidding themselves on the significance of these issues. Each property will be damp for different reasons: whether overcrowding, bad build or other factors. These are big works that will take years to go through.”

He also added there will be no provisions for flood defence after the Upper Street floods last month: “We are expecting Thames Water to do its job properly. It feels to me that we are suffering consequences of post-privatisation under-investment in our water mains, so we will hold Thames Water to account.”

The budget will be debated at a full council meeting on February 23 before being set.

Youth violence

Last year, after three teenagers were stabbed to death in 2015, Cllrs Watts and Hull pledged an extra £500,000 to be spent on mentors with a “strong track record” of turning vulnerable young lives around and ultimately address youth violence on Islington’s streets.

Asked for his thoughts on the scheme so far, Cllr Hull said: “We have been impressed by the work of the mentors. All of them are based in our gangs team and importantly, they are getting out there to speak to young people.

“We are not kidding ourselves, though. Young people are still hurting each other on Islington’s streets and this was never going to be a quick fix. It is about decent investment that will address these problems in the long term.”