Residents are being urged to have their say on Barking and Dagenham Council’s latest budget proposals.
The plans have been announced against a backdrop of severe and sustained cuts to local government, which have seen the council’s funding slashed from £103m in 2010 to £80m in 2022 - taking into account inflation of over 40% during this time, funding given to the council is the equivalent of just £57m compared to £103m in 2010.
The council is now supporting residents through the biggest cost of living crisis in almost half a century, and in a situation that will be all too familiar with families across the borough, the impact of spiralling inflation has driven up the costs of everyday essentials and is causing a big squeeze on an already stretched budget.
In response to the latest crisis, the council launched a network of community hubs to offer expert help and advice in neighbourhoods across the borough, as well as partnering with local community organisations by creating a Cost of Living Alliance to support people as early as possible, including providing help with energy costs, money worries, food and wellbeing.
A number of warm hubs have also been established to support residents who are struggling with their energy bills by providing a warm space for them to go to during the day.
Councillor Dominic Twomey, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Growth and Core Services said: “This is a budget determined to deliver the best services we can for the residents of Barking and Dagenham. The financial pressures we face are not unique to Barking and Dagenham, and as the country lurches from the pandemic into the cost of living crisis it very much feels as though councils are being abandoned by government, which has already imposed sustained austerity on us since 2010.
“Over the last few years, Barking and Dagenham has faced major challenges across all our services, particularly housing and social care. For every £10 we spend, £7 goes on caring for the most vulnerable people in our community before we can fund anything else. Demand on our services continues to rise - but government consistently fails to provide extra funding for this need.
“And right now our residents are disproportionately affected by the cost of living crisis, with as many as one in four residents having less than £100 in savings and almost half of all children living in poverty.
“That’s why despite the financial pressures we face, we continue to do all we can to help people get by and we will continue to do this as much as we can. As a council we aren’t immune to the cost of living crisis and the increase of everyday items such as fuel for our refuse lorries and this is having a significant impact on our financial resources.”
The proposals acknowledge that despite making £50million in savings and efficiencies over the last five years, more help is needed from government if the council is to continue to balance the books.
Cllr Twomey said: “We’ve reshaped our council from top to bottom and we’ve worked tirelessly to unlock our borough’s potential. The arrival of London’s newest film studios will bring jobs and a multi-million-pound boost to the local economy, as will the arrival of the City of London’s three iconic wholesale markets.
“We’ve transformed the capital’s largest brownfield site, Barking Riverside, into a thriving community featuring an award-winning ecology centre, as well as launching London’s latest Thames Clipper service and the new Overground station. These new transport facilities will unlock the further development of the site and allow thousands of more homes to be built over the coming years.
“And it is this exciting and ambitious drive to building homes that has seen our borough become the home of housebuilding in recent years, with one in five of all affordable homes built in London built here in Barking and Dagenham.
“However, that cannot paper over the financial pressures we face and without further backing from the government, like many councils, we are left with no choice but to raise Council Tax to help ease the pressures on our budget.”
As part of the 2023/24 budget plans, the council proposes a 5 per cent increase in Council Tax, including 2 per cent ringfenced for social care, which will add around £1.33 per week onto the average band D property (excluding the GLA element) from next April. The cost of delivering the council’s services have been affected by inflation which has increased by 10.1% over the past year.
Cllr Twomey added: “This is a difficult decision to make but we have been left with no choice. Until government step in and fund councils adequately based upon population levels and deprivation this will never change. We’ve repeatedly made our case – and will continue to push them – to provide more funding, but until they do, we have to take these really tough decisions.”
Residents can have their say on the council’s 2023/24 budget proposals here. The consultation will close on Sunday 5 February 2023.
Residents can also tune in to a special budget Facebook Live Q&A with Councillor Twomey and Councillor Rodwell, Leader of the Council, on Thursday 26 January, between 6 – 7pm on the Leader’s Facebook page and can submit a budget question ahead of the session by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to this, residents can also provide feedback in person at the following budget consultation sessions:
• Monday 30 January, 5.30 – 6.30pm at the Barking Learning Centre, 2 Town Square, Barking IG11 7NB
• Tuesday 31 January, 5.30 – 6.30 pm at Dagenham Library, 1 Church Elm Lane, Dagenham RM10 9QS