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COUNCIL TAX: Households face 3.4pc rise at tonight's Tower Hamlets budget meeting

PUBLISHED: 18:00 20 February 2019

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs warns of 'tough choices' as Council Tax is set to rise by 3.4pc. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs warns of 'tough choices' as Council Tax is set to rise by 3.4pc. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Council tax set to go up by nearly three-and-a-half per cent in a budget being hotly debated tonight at Tower Hamlets Council.

A three-year draft plan already approved by the mayor’s cabinet last month is due to be argued by the full council at 7pm.

A rise of 2.4pc is in line with inflation, with an additional one per cent to pay for adult social care.

The administration has been facing government funding cuts of £148m over the past nine years, equal to 64 per cent, and having to make further savings of £44m by 2022.

Labour’s Mayor John Biggs pledged to “protecting frontline services” at last month’s cabinet meeting when he warned of facing “tough choices” after nearly a decade of austerity and losing £148m government funding.

The ‘tough choices’ have already hit council-run English language classes now facing the axe.

Tonight’s meeting is likely to be packed with protesters against the language service cuts who are handing in a petition.

The council tax rise mean an average 65p a week extra for each household—but could be more. The GLA is yet to set its part of the tax bill.

But the opposition Conservative Group proposes a council tax rise of just two per cent rather than 3.4, explicitly tied to salaries and not to exceed wage growth.

It wants part of the council’s £550m reserves to go on infrastructure to reduce the yearly loses to inflation.

The authority has “substantial reserves” currently earning less interest than the amount lost to inflation, Tories point out, which are set to lose £22m over the next three years.

But Labour’s budget is likely to include £1.7m for a new enforcement squad to tackle street yobs on top of the additional police officers already being funded out of town hall coffers. Another £2.5m is being put aside for waste services and to set up a team to remove graffiti and clean up the streets.

Budget proposals also include £332m for council housing and temporary accommodation, £112m for two new secondary schools and a new footbridge across South Dock on the Isle of Dogs, £2.7m to keep free school meals going for all primary schoolchildren and £4.9m for ‘early years’ education.

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