The Budget Vote - What Happened?
Updated: Apr 27, 2022
Last night, or in fact very early this morning, Havering Council voted on it’s budget for 2022/23. It is a requirement, in law, that a balanced budget be agreed.
Community Support Package
Conservative’s Leader, Councillor Damian White, began by announcing a new set of community support schemes.
£1m has been put forward to ensure that Havering can continue to offer free school meals until Christmas 2022. This is a huge show of support for our Borough’s most in need, with the previous scheme coming to an end in February.
In his support Package, Cllr White also outlined cash grants to 2500 families to help with food and fuel as well as two new community support hubs offering weekly groceries for just £5.
This package shows, I believe, a commitment to standing with the most in need as we face rising inflation and look to recover from Covid. It was the right thing to do.
Cutting Politicians Pay
3 separate groups proposed amendments to the budget with each one proposing a different set of cuts to Councillor's Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs). SRAs are paid to Councillors who carry out extra roles, such as being a member of the Cabinet or chairing a committee.
The Conservatives proposed that the total SRA budget be reduced to £700k per year, a £400k reduction. This would then set up cross-party talks to establish what roles would exist.
The HRA group proposed a cut of the allowances to £860k, setting out a proposal scrap a few roles including the highways committee.
The North Havering Resident’s Association proposed cutting all SRAs by 15%.
It was good to see that, aside from a few rogue Councillors, there was universal agreement that these allowances be cut. At a time when we are asking those on Universal Credit to make tough choices, when parents are choosing between food or heating, and when our elderly’s pensions are hit, it is only right that our top politicians also make savings where they can.
We have Councillors who are dedicated to leading by example and I am grateful to them, across all parties, for doing so.
The Council voted in favour of the North Havering group’s amendment, with 8 voting in favour and 6 against. 35 councillors abstained. The proposals by the Conservatives, and those by the HRA, were not passed.
The Council then voted on the above amendment and the Conservatives proposed budget. This was passed with 28 votes to 8 against. 13 Councillors abstained.
This means that the Conservatives’ budget was passed, with the 15% SRA reduction as proposed by the North Havering Group
Whilst I would have preferred the Conservatives’ proposals, to cut top politicians pay further and to hold cross party talks on a structure, I welcome that cuts to the SRAs have been made. I believe that the HRA group’s proposals were trying to force a structure that wouldn’t work and so the 15% reduction was a better outcome.
Proposing a specific structure, when not even in power, would have tied up the next administration into a specific way of working. The HRA may not win the election and run Havering but would have dictated how the Conservatives or others had to structure it. Their proposal to scrap a committee on highways completely baffles me as roads are one of the number one issues for Havering residents.
So the Conservative’s budget is approved and the Council will move forward in implementing SRA cuts. This is going to be a tough year for the people of Havering, but one where they can say that the Council didn’t just sit back and do nothing.
We’re seeing a huge social housing building scheme. Another £12m dedicated to relaying our roads. Millions poured in to achieving net-zero for social housing and free school meals extended.
Whilst Council tax will rise by 2.99%, the Government will be providing rebates of £150 to a majority of Havering’s households. Cushioning the blow, but also providing the funds the Council needs.
Overall, this tough budget and the decisions made look to be mature. They’ve acknowledged the need to spend less, whilst doing more for the most vulnerable. We’ve got a hybrid budget written by the Conservatives and amended by the North Havering Group.
If elected as your Councillor, I will champion more mature decisions like this one. Party politics has a place, but people come first.