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Council tax up by 3.4pc at Tower Hamlets as mayor tackles three-year austerity measures

PUBLISHED: 22:10 10 January 2019 | UPDATED: 23:46 10 January 2019

Tower Hamlets cabinet agrees council tax rise of 3.4pc. Picture: Mike Brooke

Tower Hamlets cabinet agrees council tax rise of 3.4pc. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Council tax is set to go up by nearly three-and-a-half per cent in a draft three-year budget approved by Tower Hamlets Council's cabinet last night.

Mayor Biggs sets Tower Hamlets council budget for next three years. Picture: Mike BrookeMayor Biggs sets Tower Hamlets council budget for next three years. Picture: Mike Brooke

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

The Labour administration is claiming 58pc of people responding to public consultations which ended last month supported a council tax rise up to 3pc and two-thirds backed a further 1pc rise for adult social care.

The council 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.

“We are protecting frontline services,” Mayor John Biggs stressed. “We have to make the most of what money we have.

Mayor John Biggs... Mayor John Biggs... "We have to make the most of what money we have." Picture: Mike Brooke

“There’s no escaping that we face tough choices after nearly a decade of austerity and losing £148m government funding.”

These measures mean an average additional 65p a week rise for each household. But it could be more. The GLA is yet to set its part of the council tax.

Services most valued in the public consultations were those for children, public health and community safety.

So a new enforcement squad to tackle street yobs and a ‘rapid response’ team to deal with graffiti has been included in the budget proposals due to be formalized next month.

The council plans to earmark £1.7m for enforcement officers on the streets on top of the additional police already being funded out of town hall coffers.

Another £2.5m is being put aside to improve waste services and create a team to remove graffiti and clean up the streets.

The budget proposals 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 another £4.9m for ‘early years’ education.

Charges for holding street parties are being scrapped in a bid to “bring communities together” while also funding events like the annual Victoria Park fireworks and the Brick Lane Boishakhi Mela festival. Tower Hamlets remains the seventh lowest council tax in London.

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