In budget proposals published today, the council has developed a transformative three-year savings strategy that also commits to keeping all libraries, leisure centres and adventure playgrounds open – and a £500,000 boost to funding for work tackling serious youth violence will continue permanently in light of the programme’s success.
The proposals come in the context of severe ongoing budget pressures – between 2010 and 2020, national government will have cut its core funding to the council by 70 per cent, at the same time as unavoidable cost increases and rising demand for services have seen the council make savings of £115m. In 2019/20 alone, Islington must make a further £13.8m of savings and by 2022, the council will have had to make £275m of savings since 2010.
Despite these pressures, the proposals commit the council to:
- Investing £187m building more than 550 badly-needed council homes for social rent;
- Investing £13.5m buying properties to use as temporary accommodation for Islington residents, raising their living standards and reducing reliance on private sector landlords;
- Building on recent success tackling rough sleeping, by mainstreaming funding for specialist outreach officers and co-ordinators to help people get their lives back on track and a roof over their heads.
- Following the success of the four-year programme to tackle serious youth violence, prevent young people from falling into gangs and helping those already entrenched in criminality to leave and rebuild their lives, the council will incorporate the £500,000 extra annual funding for that work into its mainstream budget.
- Regular street cleaning, parks maintenance and weekly rubbish and recycling collections have also been protected from cuts and will remain unaffected – as will free school meals for all nursery and primary school pupils, saving families £400 per year. All libraries, leisure centres and youth hubs will be protected, too, as will levels of council grant-giving to the local voluntary and community sector.
- Islington’s residents’ support scheme, one of the most generous in the country, will be protected for the next three years, alongside financial support for the most vulnerable, including through the Council Tax Support Scheme.
Adults and older people
- With the number of over-65s set to rise by almost a third in the next decade, demand for adult social care services will also increase. Proposed changes will tailor support to people’s needs and aspirations, with early preventative help and support available closer to home.
- This new approach will see council and healthcare services located with those of the voluntary and community sectors. This is expected to bring major benefits to residents, ensuring they get high-quality, integrated and preventative support at the right time and in a more cost-effective way.
Islington is also recognising the key role played across the council by employees from the European Union. Government will require them to pay to obtain “settled status” in order to remain and work after Brexit, and Islington will be one of the first councils in England to agree to reimburse successful “settled status” applications for its direct employees.
Cllr Andy Hull, executive member for finance, performance and community safety, said: “We all know that the government’s budget cuts to councils have been severe, but through careful financial management and planning, we can continue to provide good services to local people in the coming years.
“We are committed to making Islington a fairer place for all and the investments announced in this three-year plan will allow us to concentrate on doing the things that matter the most – and doing them well.”
The budget proposals will go to the council’s executive on Thursday, 17 January, before being debated by full council on Thursday, 28 February, when the council’s budget for 2019/20 will be set.
The budget proposals can be read in full here.