Council unveils next year’s budget with vow to ‘protect the most vulnerable’

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Citizen

Politicians have set out next year’s budget in Islington – saying it will “help those most in need”.

Unveiling the proposals, Cllr Satnam Gill said: “Many local people are facing a crisis of cost of living, a crisis of  jobs, with many items of food, gas, electricity going up, and inflation, interest rates massively increased.”

He told the council’s executive that the budget is designed to “protect the most vulnerable”.

He said the pandemic has added to the challenges of setting next year’s budget plans, and warned that to balance the books, council number-crunchers had to find £6.7m in savings.

These include cutting the use of agency staff, changes in commissioning services and a hoped-for £500,000 in reducing bad debt.

The Labour councillor, who is responsible for finance, blamed the pandemic and 11 years of a “disastrous” Tory government which he says has made local government financing “virtually impossible”.

The council has slashed £281m from its budget over the last 11 years.

The budget includes plans to build another 228 houses as part of its new-build housing programme, and to develop the Finsbury Leisure Centre and build  100 new homes there.

The budget includes £676,000 on council tax support, which means 19,000 working families on low income will only pay five per cent of their bill – an average saving of £42 per household.

There’s also more money to tackle the climate crisis, with £30.3m for green projects next year and £48m over the following three years.

The council has an ambitious target to become a net-zero borough by 2030.

Cllr Gill said the childcare bursary scheme will increase, which should help another 300 parents as they take up job or training opportunities.

The council also plans to put a further £1m towards working with voluntary groups and other partners to help vulnerable residents.

It has pledged £500,000 for support for young people and £2m to tackle violence against women and girls.

Council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz said she was proud of the budget and said the authority has “protected” services including libraries, children’s centres, and giving primary school pupils a hot meal every day.

She said the council has “supported thousands of residents” through the pandemic, but that it has “taken a terrible toll” on people.

The budget will be debated at full council on 3 March when the three opposition councillors can suggest alternative proposals.