Tower Hamlets Council has approved a new budget for 2023/24, aimed at supporting residents through the cost of living crisis and investing in the future of community safety, housing, leisure, and climate change.
At a special Full Council meeting held on Wednesday 1 March, the new budget was given the green light, which includes freezing the Tower Hamlets element of Council Tax, except for a 2 per cent Adult Social Care precept to raise £2.5m towards services for older and vulnerable residents. Additionally, the budget includes £19m of investment in young people, which will make Tower Hamlets the first local authority in England to offer universal free school meals to both primary and secondary school children.
Moreover, there will be an allocation of more than £7m to help tackle climate change, including electric waste vehicles, EV charging points, and low carbon fuel. Furthermore, the budget has earmarked £4.4m for community safety, including the hiring of new police and enforcement officers.
The council also aims to build 1,000 new affordable homes a year, maintain a generous council tax reduction scheme for low-income families, and offer support to vulnerable adults through free homecare services.
The council’s Executive Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said, “We are proud to have put together our first budget which meets our commitment to invest in services and support our residents through this difficult time. This is a budget that continues to support our residents through the cost of living crisis. We have frozen council tax and continue to have one of the lowest rates in London, and we are giving grants to our most vulnerable residents along with supporting our young people to have better life opportunities.”
However, to finance the significant investment in frontline services, the council will need to make around £37m of further savings from 2024/25. While challenging, it is not unusual for councils, and London boroughs have collectively made £1.3bn of savings over the last four years.
Cllr Saied Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Resources and the Cost of Living, said, “We will need to reprioritise and restructure by making savings in some areas to invest in others. We will do this carefully and prudently by reviewing services and cutting out unnecessary spend, including any inefficiencies and duplication. We are also investing to save in many areas, so in future years, there will be less burden on the public purse.”