Redbridge Council leader promises new budget will ‘transform’ the borough’s finances

The launch of the pride in redbridge campaign at Valentines Mansion.
The council leader Jas Athwal,

The launch of the pride in redbridge campaign at Valentines Mansion. The council leader Jas Athwal, - Credit: Archant

The leader of Redbridge Council has stressed that its upcoming budget will focus on transforming services and streamlining infrastructure to save money.

Amid what the council describes as “unprecedented” cuts from central government, Redbridge is expected to save £30.3million over the next five years.

The new budget, due to be discussed by councillors at a cabinet meeting on February 7, will put aside £47m for Redbridge’s schools to fund expansion and continue providing sufficient places.

It will also fund a £4.4m scheme to roll out LED street-lights and a portion of funding for regeneration projects in Ilford town centre.

But there will also be some budget cuts in the form of “transformations” – much like the recently publicised green waste removal proposals – to try and find ways services can be more cost-efficient.

“We’re still ambitious in that we’re trying to run this council like a business,” said council leader Cllr Jas Athwal. “And not a traditional council, which is something we’ve done ever since we took up office.”

But Cllr Athwal does accept that there will be some who criticise certain aspects of the budget, such as plans to build a new swimming pool in Wanstead at a time when other services are being cut.

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“There will be some opposition from members of the public and even from fellow councillors, who will say ‘instead of building a swimming pool why don’t you spend the money on other services?’ and that always upsets me.

“What they don’t seem to understand is that there are two types of funding, capital investment and revenue.

“A swimming pool is a one-off expense that will, when people begin to use the service, start to make money and eventually become self-funding.

“If we poured that money into our services all that would happen is that we would need to borrow more money next year, and that isn’t what we want to do.”

And personally, the council leader accepts it is a difficult time to be in power.

“Am I frustrated by the lack of funding from central government? Absolutely. But I’m also incredibly grateful and proud that, in its time of greatest need, Redbridge turned to Labour to look after its resources,” he said.

“Our priority will always be the people of Redbridge.”

The leaders of the council’s Conservative and Lib Dem groups have been contacted for comment.