Redbridge Council’s 2019 budget approved: Council Tax hike and Late Night Levy stand-off
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Redbridge Council has approved a budget which will see it save £12.8m over the next three years in the face of central government cuts.
But opposition councillors argued it is “balanced on backs of those struggling to make ends meet” during a heated meeting at Redbridge Town Hall, in High Road, last night (February 28).
Topping the agenda was an increase in council tax, the council’s proposed Late Night Levy (LNL) and the introduction of charges for some respite care users.
An overall Council Tax hike of 3.99 per cent was approved, including a 1pc rise in the adult social care precept.
This means the majority of Redbridge residents will see their Band D tax rise from £1,476.09 to £1,549.98 from April 1.
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In his opening speech, Cllr Jas Athwal spoke of the areas the council is investing in “despite crippling cuts from central government”.
“We will continue to work to tackle homelessness and focus on children in need,” he said.
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He highlighted plans to invest £6.4m in regenerating Ilford, £6.1m in rolling out the London Living Wage as well as £1m in streets cleaning, litter enforcement and education on improving the environment.
Responding, Conservative leader Cllr Linda Huggett accused the administration of lacking democracy in its budget setting.
She said: “There needs to be more transparent, cross party working - not making decisions behind closed doors as you are now.
“All we can try to do is put a sticking plaster on this budget.”
The Conservative group put forward £196,000 in amendments, including reversing proposals to introduce the LNL on businesses selling alcohol after midnight.
Conservative Cllr Ruth Clark said that around 20 to 30pc of businesses are expected to reduce their hours to try and avoid the charge.
“If they reduce hours then it will lead to more unemployment she said,” she said.
The group proposed funding its amendment by axing three high ranking council officer positions.
But those proposals were criticised as “laughable” by the Labour group.
“£196,000 worth of amendements in a gross expenditure of £785m - that means they differ by just 0.025pc,” Cllr Athwal said. “That is how irrelevant they are.”
Cllr Bob Littlewood highlighted that a decision on the LNL would not be taken until after a consultation period ends in April and that the charge amount to only £5.75 a week for a Band A businesses.
Conservative Cllr Suzanne Nolan also slammed plans to introduce charges on some residents at Green Lodge respite care home for people with severe learning disabilities, in Madeira Grove, Woodford Green, in a bid to save £150,000.
“The proposed changes are going to put yet another burden on families which could lead to breakdown, with Redbridge left to pick up the pieces,” she said.
But deputy leader Kam Rai assured councillors that the “needs of residents would be met”.
“If you really cared about respite care then you would have put in an amendment,” he added.
“All you do it complain, complain, complain, with no ideas about how to fund the gap.”
The council’s revenue and capital budgets were passed with 48 votes to 11.
All Conservative amendments were voted down.