Labour Group opposition Leader Cllr Josh Peck on Tower Hamlets Council's Budget
PUBLISHED: 13:39 13 March 2013 | UPDATED: 13:39 13 March 2013
Bow West Labour Councillor Josh Peck
It’s budget time at the Tower Hamlets Town Hall and we’ve been poring over Mayor Rahman’s proposals for the year ahead.
With the Mayoral election now a year away, there’s serious concern that significant sums are being used for what looks suspiciously like a re-election campaign with a £13million spending spree on pre-election projects.
£800,000 of that will go on a huge clean-up of the Borough even though Mayor Rahman has spent the last year telling us that our streets are 97% clean. All well and good but the Mayor might reflect that not cutting street sweeping and introducing charges for bulk waste collection last year might have been a better idea. There’s also £70,000 for a publicity campaign to tell us how clean the streets are and reconnect (your) “perceptions of street cleanliness with reality”!
The spending Mayor Rahman hopes you’ll miss is the huge increase in the cost of his office, including £300,000 a year on advisors - as if the 10,000 staff the council employs aren’t good enough.
The question Labour councillors have been asking is how the Mayor could possibly afford this new short-term spending? Shamefully, a good chunk is paid for by cutting the budget for social services by 5%. This election campaign will mean 40 fewer social workers doing child protection work, supporting older people to live at home or working with the most vulnerable people in our borough. We are clear that cutting social workers to fund pre-election projects is entirely wrong.
On top of all this the Council is facing a 50% cut in its grant from Government. With no plans for how he’s going to deal with this, Mayor Rahman’s budget conceals a £55million blackhole in a couple of years. As the Council’s budget legally has to balance, a deficit means that council tax would have to go up or services would have to be cut after the election. Having to cut £55million in one go would decimate services.
Labour councillors have been saying for a year now that the Mayor needs to face up to his responsibilities and start tackling the financial crisis he’s creating. We proposed some initial ways he could do that, by cutting out wasteful spending on his advisors, communications (Ofcom just found that the Council used £20,000 of tax payer’s money to fund party political broadcasts for the Mayor) and events.
He rejected them but the Council approved them nonetheless. We hope Mayor Rahman takes note and starts taking action to get the Council’s finances in order. We’ll see.