Tower Hamlets Council's budget for the next financial year will be drawing £22.1 million from the council’s reserves so it can "balance the books".

The authority says this means it can invest in various services such as universal free school meals for primary and secondary school children and the hiring of 55 extra police officers to tackle crime in the borough.

Proposed by the borough’s mayor, Lutfur Rahman, and his party, Aspire, it also includes the freezing of the council’s element of council tax, though residents will still be paying a two per cent increase in adult social care precept to meet “significant pressures”.

The budget was presented to full council on Wednesday, March 1 at the new town hall in Whitechapel.

Speaking about the budget, Mr Rahman told the council chamber: “The people – you – kindly gave me a clear mandate to deliver positive change and unlike the previous administration, we will not abandon governance or strategic planning. Indeed we will embrace it neither will we fail to achieve efficiencies year after year or divert millions of pounds away from the frontline services using the council reserves while the people of this borough suffer.”

The mayor added that the budget represents “hope in difficult times” and puts the needs of the people first.

“We will reverse, yes we will reverse previous administrations’ track record of failure and poor financial oversight,” he continued. “We are different ladies and gentlemen.”

The proposed budget was then seconded by Cllr Saied Ahmed, cabinet member for resources and the cost of living, who added that he was proud of the commitments his administration have made in the borough.

Cllr Ahmed said: “We have utilised a portion of the council’s reserves, [which] continuously improved over the past seven years whilst [frontline] services were cut.

“From 2023 to 2026, we are drawing down £45m in reserves for these three years to help fund the transformative vision of the mayor, for which he has for the borough.”

However, councillors from the Labour party, the Green party and the Conservative party spoke out against the plans and presented the council with their own budget amendments.

Cllr Sirajul Islam, leader of the Tower Hamlets Labour party, said: “In this budget proposal, there is an increase in 7pc rent in existing council stock and 13pc increase on new-build properties.

“In our amendment, we have suggested 5pc increase across the board, saving a tenant £150 to £500 a year, again helping those on the sharp end of the cost of living crisis.”

Cllr Nathalie Bienfait, the borough’s only Green councillor, said the council should increase its parking charges which would generate £12.5m every year from 2023 to 2026 and suggested the full council tax reduction scheme expand to those households who are part of the tapered reduction scheme.

Meanwhile, Cllr Peter Golds, the borough’s only Conservative councillor, warned once the reserves have been spent, they "are not easily rebuilt".

Cllr Golds told the council: “I draw everyone’s attention to the fact that the administration’s budget really doesn’t actually mention the savings that we’ve got to do in the next three years.

“I would remind you 9.5pc this year, 32.6pc in the following year and in 2025/26 £38.8m – now that’s a lot of money that we’ve got to deal with.”

All amendments proposed did not get enough votes, and the budget was passed.