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Town hall approves council tax hike and liveable neighbourhood – but snubs proposals for cheaper bike storage and citizens assembly fund

PUBLISHED: 11:09 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 March 2020

Stock image of Islington school kids on climate strike outside the town hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

Stock image of Islington school kids on climate strike outside the town hall. Picture: Polly Hancock

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The climate emergency dominated proceedings at a full council meeting where the budget for 2020/2021 was passed on Thursday last week.

Stock image of Islington school kids on climate strike. Picture: Polly HancockStock image of Islington school kids on climate strike. Picture: Polly Hancock

The budget approved a council tax hike of 1.99 per cent and £10.2million of borrowing for capital investments.

The latter will include £1million to create the borough's first "liveable neighbourhood" - designed to reduce traffic and encourage walking and cycling - in the Highbury East and Mildmay area.

But the ruling Labour Group "supermajority" voted down an amendment from Islington's sole opposition councillor, Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East).

Her proposals included halving the cost of storing a bike and rasing the annual coast of parking permits by £107 a year.

Islington Town Hall.Picture:Ken MearsIslington Town Hall.Picture:Ken Mears

She once again suggested exempting "poorest" in the borough from paying council tax.

Cllr Russell advocating investing £273,000 to fund regular citizens assemblies to "support active citizen engagement in the climate emergency plan and its implementation". And she touted one-off funding of £1.4million to "civilise" a main road and make it less traffic dominated.

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She added: "Worryingly, 180 households a year have their gas cut off by Islington Council at the annual safety check because they have no credit on the meter. Re-connection and wasted visits cost the council £21,000 a year.

"If you take up my idea of providing gas credit at the time of the annual gas safety check it would save the council £8000 a year and more importantly protect the well-being of residents on the most precarious incomes. I really hope you steal this idea."

Outgoing finance chief Cllr Andy Hull said the council already has a "generous council tax support scheme - backed up the more targeted resident support scheme".

He noted the executive voted to "crank up the diesel surcharge" for parking permits by three per cent.

Cllr Hull said: "I think the case is weak for spending a quarter of a million on a citizens assembly, which strikes me as excessive."

But he added: "Addressing the problem of council tenants getting their gas supply cut of is a sensible suggestion and one we will take on board."

He stressed the council would be voting against the amendment on the night but intended to "honour the spirit" of gas credit recommendation going forward.

The council tax rise adds an extra 45p per week to the average Band D property, with a market value between £68,001 and £88,000 (by 1991 figures).

The government's social care precept of 2pc will also be applied, adding an extra 45p per week to the average Band D property.


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