Bangla Mirror Desk:
A budget to support people through tough times and invest in their future
Mayor freezes council tax outside of Adult Social Care precept £16m investment in young people, includinguniversal free school meals, education bursaries and more youth services
More than £7m to help tackle climate change £4.4m for community safety including new police and enforcement officers Target of 1,000 affordable homes a year Supporting residents through the cost of living crisis; giving young people better life opportunities and investing in the future of community safety, housing, leisure and climate change are at the heart of the council’s new budget approved on Wednesday evening.
The council’s new budget for 2023/24 received the go-ahead at a special Full Council meeting, held for the first time in the chamber of the new Town Hall in Whitechapel on Wednesday 1 March.
The new budget freezes the Tower Hamlets element of Council Tax, alongside a 2 per cent Adult Social Care precept to raise £2.5m towards services for older and vulnerable residents. An extra £2.5m package will help provide free homecare for qualifying residents from April 2024.
A key part of the budget includes £16m of investment in our young people, which includes £5.7m for Tower Hamlets to become the first local authority in England to offer universal free school meals to both primary and secondary school children. It sits alongside other youth support, including £1.1million for the re-introduction of the Education Maintenance Allowance and University Bursaries.
Other aspects include £7m to help tackle climate change, including electric waste vehicles, EV charging points and low carbon fuel, and £4.5 million in support for the voluntary and community sector.
Tower Hamlets will also retain one of the most generous council tax reduction schemes in the country, with reductions of up to 100 per cent for the borough’s low-income families.
Lutfur Rahman, Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets,said:
“We are proud to have put together our first budget which meets our commitment to invest in services and support our residents through this difficult time.
“This is a budget that continues to support our residents through the cost of living crisis. We have frozen council tax and continue to have one of the lowest rates in London, and we are giving grants to our most vulnerable residents along with supporting our young people to have better life opportunities.
“Our 2023/24 budget is fully costed, with significant investment up front to get projects moving such as universal free school meals for primary and secondary schools and bringing services such as Tower Hamlets Homes and leisure centres back in house.
“We also remain committed to our priorities of building 1,000 new affordable homes a year and making Tower Hamlets a safer place by investing £4.4m into providing new police and enforcement officers on the beat.”
Investment and key policies
The budget plans and related key policies include:
1000 new affordable homes a year and improved fire safety and repairs
£16m investment in young people, including:
£5.7m for universal free school meals for both primary and secondary school pupils
£11.5m investment to transform youth services
£1.1m to re-introduce Education Maintenance Allowances and University Bursaries
£730k for children with special educational and additional needs (SEND)
£2.5m to support free homecare for vulnerable adults
£4.4m to tackle crime and ASB with new police officers and enforcement officers
£800k for community language investment
£7m for tackling climate change including electric waste vehicles, EV charging points and low carbon fuel
Ongoing cost of living support with an extra £700k for the tackling poverty programme
£275k to bring leisure services back under direct council control
£1.25m ongoing support for the voluntary and community sector
£1.1m for improved customer services at residents’ hubs
£487k for the full reopening of Idea Store Watney Market
To contribute to this significant investment into frontline services, we will have to make around £37m of savings over the next three years.
Whilst this will be challenging, it is not unusual for councils. Over the last four years London boroughs have collectively made £1.3bn of savings.
Cllr Saied Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Resourcesand the Cost of Living, said:
“This is an exciting time, one in which our vision is being turned into fully-costed delivery. We are changing the focus of our council and to do this we need to make investment up front on measures including free school meals and bringing Tower Hamlets Homes and leisure centres back in house.
“We will need to reprioritise and restructure by making savings in some areas to invest in others. We will do this carefully and prudently by reviewing services and cutting out unnecessary spend including any inefficiencies and duplication.
“We are also investing to save in many areas, so in future years there will be less burden on the public purse. For example, the significant investment we are making in young people will provide a bridge out of deprivation by improving opportunities.”