'Not a cut' in 2022/23 budget but Redbridge plans £19.5m savings by 2027

Redbridge Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

Redbridge councillors approved the authority's 2022/23 budget - Credit: Ken Mears

Redbridge councillors approved the authority's 2022/23 budget but the borough faces £19.5million of savings over the next five years.

The revenue, council tax and housing budgets were given the green light on Thursday, February 24 following a two-and-a-half hour full council debate.

The 2022/23 budget, which is balanced, contains £8.5m of savings proposals but deputy leader Cllr Kam Rai told the meeting: "There is not a cut in this budget."

Councillors agreed a 2.99 per cent council tax rise, including 1pc for adult social care.

But residents will see an overall 4.17pc hike when also taking into account the Greater London Authority's precept.

Other increases for residents include council housing rents, which will go up by 4.1pc in April, along with heating and service charge rates increasing by an average of 6.8pc.

Earmarked savings include the council’s communities service planning to “transform the lives” of 700 families by moving them out of temporary housing, saving £7million by 2027.

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It also hopes to save £3million by targeting young people in care with “focused investment” in therapy that will reunite them with their birth parents or caregiver.

Cllr Rai told the meeting: “I’m proud of the budget we put forward.

“This budget increases services whilst looking after residents."

Council leader Jas Athwal said his administration was delivering "investment in our streets" despite "crippling Tory cuts".

But Conservative group leader Cllr Linda Huggett hit back, saying: “You can’t keep going back and blaming the Conservatives. You have to take responsibility yourselves and you have not been doing that."

A list of last year’s planned savings from the people directorate shows only half a million pounds of the planned £2.3m reduction is close to being achieved.

That includes various strategies such as restorative justice, reducing how many children are taken into care and restricting guardianship order payments.

In his statement of robustness, operational finance director Ian Ambrose signed off on the council’s budget as “prudent” but warned of “significant risks” around the delivery of savings.

The budget report shows Redbridge’s reserves are forecast to drop £17m by March 2023, which Mr Ambrose warned is “unsustainable” and should only be a one-off.

He added: “There is a significant risk of financial instability if considerable levels of reserves are used to fund ongoing spending or reductions in council tax.”

Mr Ambrose outlined 13 different risks that threaten the council’s budget in the coming year, including the ongoing pandemic, delays in achieving savings, uncertain government funding in the future, temporary accommodation, social care and delivering building projects on time.