Published: 03:06 PM, 09 November 2023
Tower Hamlets (London), 31 October: As part of the Tower Hamlets council’s budget-setting process for 2024-25, local residents, businesses, and community organisations are encouraged to help shape the borough’s next budget by giving their views in a survey which runs from Monday 23 October to Monday 4 December 2023.
Many households in the borough continue to struggle with the ongoing impact of the cost-of-living crisis, and the council is providing financial and practical support to help families in need. In a similar way, the cost-of-living impacts council services and finances through inflationary pressures such as the cost of energy, materials, and goods.
For 2023-24, to support residents, the council froze the element of Council Tax that it controls and added a 2 per cent Adult Social Care precept, to raise £2.5 million towards services for older and vulnerable residents. An additional £2.5 million package was also approved to provide free homecare for qualifying residents from April 2024.
A key part of the budget includes significant investment for children and young people, including the £5.7 million for Tower Hamlets to become the first local authority in England to offer universal free school meals to both primary and secondary school children. This provides a lifeline for thousands of local families and sits alongside £13.7million to transform youth services, and £1.1million for the re-introduction of the Education Maintenance Allowance and University Bursaries.
Other funding approved for the current budget includes £7 million towards measures to help tackle climate change, an extra £4.4 million to fund new THEOs (Tower Hamlets Enforcement Officers) and police officers, and £1.1 million for improved customer services through new Residents’ Hubs.
New investment in housing and leisure services are aligned with the council’s decision to bring these public services back under full council control, with a commitment to deliver 4,000 new affordable homes for rent by 2026.
Lutfur Rahman, Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Our current budget focuses on investing in the future, delivering top-quality public services, and protecting local people from the ongoing impacts of the cost-of-living crisis in a balanced and fiscally responsible way.
“Despite the ongoing financial challenges, we remain committed to transforming opportunities for our young people with a brand-new youth service, free school meals for all, and the return of education maintenance allowances and university bursaries.
“These are just some of the many areas in which we want to make lasting changes to improve the lives of our residents, and I urge local people to take part in the consultation to help us shape our next budget.”
The council has worked hard to make over £200m in savings since 2010, as its budget has been cut by the government and squeezed by additional demand. The extra spending and income pressures, compounded by increased demand for services and expected changes to government funding, mean the council still needs to look at making savings. Over the next two years, the council is expected to make savings of £40m.
Despite challenges from government budget cuts, increases in the number of vulnerable residents, and a rising population, the council remains committed to investing in frontline services, and has one of the lowest council tax rates in London.
Cllr Saied Ahmed, Cabinet Member for Resources and the Cost of Living, said: “Our budget approved earlier this year included a number of invest-to-save measures, such as the new funding for children and young people that will deliver future savings, whilst also providing positive educational and employment opportunities for future generations.
“Bringing crucial housing and leisure services in-house will enable us to have a greater direct say in how these services are run, and where possible to deliver future efficiencies, by removing unnecessary levels of duplication and establishing better ways of working.
“We will always protect our most vulnerable residents from the ongoing financial pressures they are facing, whilst working hard to make the most of every penny that we spend. Please take some time to give us your views in the survey.”
The budget survey is hosted on the council’s Let’s Talk Tower Hamlets consultation hub at talk.towerhamlets.gov.uk/
The survey results will be published in a future council report, go before a public meeting, and feed into the on-going budget setting process, due to conclude with a Full Council budget setting meeting currently scheduled for Wednesday 28 February next year.