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Islington Council publishes budget as government cuts its funding in half

Islington Council has again been hit harder by government cuts than almost any other council in the country. Between 2010 and 2016, national government will have cut its funding to the council in half, leaving the borough £1,000 worse off per household and now among the ‘top ten’ councils worst hit by government cuts.

Despite often being perceived as wealthy, Islington is officially the 14th most deprived local authority area in the country, with the second highest rate of child poverty.

So far under this government, the council has had to make savings of £112million. Now, it must identify a further £37million of savings in 2015/2016 alone.

As the council today (7 January) publishes its proposed budget for the year ahead Leader Cllr Richard Watts says this makes the coming year one of the toughest the council has ever faced:

“Our priority is to protect the services on which many of Islington’s 206,000 residents rely.

“We have managed, for now, to safeguard all our libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools and children’s centres as well as crucial services like school crossing patrols and adult social care.

“My fear is that we will not be able to sustain these vital services if government cuts continue on this scale.”

Measures the council is planning to take in the coming year to tackle its funding crisis include:

- a 1.99% increase in council tax, putting council tax up by 40p a week on an average Islington property,

- reducing the number of waste lorries required by gradually making some recycling collection services communal,

- losing 211 staff posts, many of them vacant and others through voluntary redundancy, including £1million of senior management.

Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Finance, says that the council has to make tough choices but is listening to residents and sticking to the right priorities:

“We have not increased council tax for five years in Islington, meaning it is lower here than in neighbouring boroughs. Now though, in order to protect important services that support some of the most vulnerable in our community, we are proposing an increase in council tax of just 40p a week for the average Islington property, still keeping it well below council tax in most of London.

“The government has just cut critical funding for local welfare provision, but we are determined to continue Islington’s Resident Support Scheme which offers a lifeline for those residents who find themselves in desperate need. In order to pay for this, we need to save money on our recycling services by using fewer lorries, so we’ll be looking at more communal recycling collections on estates and for kitchen and green waste.”

Despite unprecedented government cuts, the council is still making a real difference in the areas that matter most to local people:

Schools: Islington's GCSE results were 143rd out of 151 local authorities in 2010 but now they are 34th. Every secondary school and 9 out of 10 primary schools in the borough are classed by Ofsted as Outstanding or Good.

Housing: over 1,800 new affordable homes have been built in the borough and we have brought 300 homes back into use that were previously empty or illegally sublet.

Jobs: we have secured a big fall in youth unemployment and helped hundreds of parents back into work (eg in 2013/14 alone, the council’s Business Employment Support Team supported 373 people into work).

Pay: we pay the Living Wage to more of our people (both staff and contractors) than any other council in the country.

The council is publishing a one-year budget for 2015/16, pending the outcome of the General Election in May and ensuing Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Office for Budget Responsibility said last year that only 40 per cent of the government’s planned cuts to public spending have been made this Parliament, meaning that 60 per cent of the cuts they have planned are yet to come.

ends

Notes to editor:

The agenda for the Executive meeting on 15 January 2015 is available online at: http://democracy.islington.gov.uk/documents/g2243/Public%20reports%20pack%2015th-Jan-2015%2019.30%20Executive.pdf?T=10

The Budget report is Item 4.

For more information contact:

Sian Williams
Deputy Head of Strategy and Communications
020 7527 3376
sian.williams@islington.gov.uk