Islington council tax bills set to soar by 5.9% as budget gets approval
Town Hall leader blames significant hike on cuts from government that ‘hates this borough’
02 March, 2018 — By Emily Finch
Town Hall leader Cllr Richard Watts: ‘It’s not an easy time to run a council’
COUNCIL tax bills in Islington are set to soar by 5.9 per cent – with Labour councillors insisting they have no choice but to collect more cash against a backdrop of government cuts.
Despite the significant hike in residents’ monthly bills, Town Hall leader Richard Watts said he was “proud” of the way Islington was responding to operating with slashed grants.
“It’s not an easy time to run a council,” he said at the annual budget-setting meeting on Thursday evening.
“We have seen the biggest cut ever of £200million in the course of a decade.
“We have a government that hates this borough, hates this council and what it stands for. Every day it makes the lives of our residents harder. I am proud of our response.”
The new budget, which will come into force in April, will see £32m in cuts and a 5.99 per cent rise in council tax for most residents.
This means people in Band D properties will have to pay an extra £65 this year. The budget will also see 200 new council homes built in the borough at the cost of £57m, alongside other major projects including a rebuild of Tufnell Park Primary School. Council tax will also be cut for foster carers looking after adults and children.
Green councillor Caroline Russell
Cllr Watts said: “These are the responses the people of Islington want us to make.”
There are no Conservatives or Liberal Democrats elected to the council, leaving Green councillor Caroline Russell as the only opposition politician. Her suggested amendments, including new bike storage hangars financed by an 0.5 per cent increase in parking fees and cutting the political officer post, supporting the Labour group, at the council in favour of an officer cracking down on household waste.
The Town Hall’s finance chief, Cllr Andy Hull, who is the main architect behind the budget, criticised Cllr Russell’s amendments which were voted down by the 40 Labour councillors who had gathered for the meeting.
“The Greens are not a serious opposition,” he said. “They have nothing to say about Tory cuts. With the Greens it’s things like subsidised bike hangars. With Labour, it’s social housing, tackling crime and supporting foster carers. Bring on the May elections.” In turn, Cllr Russell voted against the Labour budget in a separate vote.
Speaking afterwards, she said: “I have a lot of sympathy for my Labour colleagues. They face the challenge of keeping services going with ever-worsening national cuts. But time and again they fail to engage with Green amendments to make their budget better. Over the last four years they’ve missed opportunities to invest in apprenticeships, prevent redundancies, make our streets better for walking and cycling and improve procurement processes to save money.
“Having a super majority has left Labour unable to listen.”