Council unveils proposed budget plan to protect services and lead Hounslow through recovery

Hounslow Council has unveiled a proposed budget for 2021/22 which will see all services protected and ambitions delivered for the borough to recover fairer, greener and stronger.

Published: Tuesday, 2nd February 2021

Cllr Shantanu Rajawat - cabinet portfolio image

Staff have worked hard over the past year to protect residents and frontline services such as waste and recycling, adult and children’s social care and housing, despite the impact of COVID-19.

Through sound financial management and innovative partnership working, the Council has been able to cover increases in spending due to COVID-19 while offering funding support for 2,810 local businesses, discounts on Council Tax to 8,893 households and launching a community hub to support vulnerable and shielding residents.

The proposed budget published today, 1 February 2021, sets out how the Council will meet the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, continue to provide frontline services and  deliver its priorities for the borough outlined in its ambitious Recovery Plan: One Hounslow Forward Together.

The budget proposes an increase in the Council’s element of Council Tax of 4.99%, equivalent to £5.30 a month/ £63.62 per year for a Band D property (excluding the greater London Authority precept). Three per cent is ringfenced to protect adult social care – an increase requested by the Government – and 1.99 per cent is a general increase reflecting the impact of inflation on the council’s costs.

Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, said:

“Over the past year we worked hard and managed to protect key frontline services despite huge pressures on our budgets due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Hounslow we have seen devastating effects of COVID-19 for the local economy in terms of furlough numbers, unemployment levels and the rise in welfare support needed by our communities, especially by the most vulnerable. It is still impossible to be certain about the costs of COVID-19.

“The work we have done to support residents and businesses, through the Council Tax support scheme and the various support schemes we have on offer, such as hardship payments, business grants and rent support has been vital.

“Volatility in regards to Business Rates means we cannot be sure when, if ever, we will see a return to normal. We cannot know how businesses will be affected in months to come. We know that without our support, many will find meeting their challenges much harder. Loss of Council fees and charges income has had an impact too, and we cannot know when we will see our own income recover.

“As we look to the Borough’s recovery, we need to maximise the Hounslow pound, invest in re-skilling and supporting residents back into work and to invest in support for young people through apprenticeships and other work. The need for local government has never been greater.

“While we had to meet this huge crisis, we also had to make sure we continued ‘the basics’; collecting bins and increasing recycling, fixing roads, maintaining parks, bringing back our leisure centres, ensuring our libraries were available, caring for elderly, and protecting vulnerable children. No part of what we do has not touched the lives of every resident or business.

“In order to continue to protect services and our most vulnerable residents while also achieving our wider ambitions, we have had to make the difficult decision to increase Council Tax this year. Our residents are at the heart of everything we do and we will continue to do all we can to protect the services they value, balancing out any uncertainty from the Government in future years.”

Councillor Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council, said:

“The last year brought serious, unexpected demand and pressure on all of us. There is no precedent for the COVID-19 crisis in living memory. For local government this has been a year we didn’t expect and hope never to see again.

“We understand the terrible economic demands COVID-19 has made on residents but need to meet the costs of delivering and maintaining what we do in this changed world. We recognise the hardship many struggle with across the Borough - a great part of our own response has been providing ceaseless support to the most vulnerable and hardest hit.

“COVID-19 will not go as quickly as it came. Its impacts will be felt into the medium term. On top of that the financial impacts of Brexit remain unknown.

“This budget puts us on a sound footing to deliver on our ambitions to recovery from the impact of COVID-19 as a fairer, greener and stronger borough. In this budget, we maintain our reputation for competent, sound financial management, even in extraordinary times. But the Government has not provided any meaningful certainty or funding to help us deal with the long-term impact of COVID-19 as it will impact on our residents and businesses into the future.

“As with our call to the Government for help for our recovery plans, and for an Aviation Communities Fund, our calls for support for our budget have gone unanswered. In fact, the Government has told councils they must increase Council Tax to meet the costs of the crisis. In effect, the Government has obliged us to raise a COVID-Tax.”

The budget contains no new savings beyond those previously agreed in 2019, and includes new budgets (growth) of over £6.6 million, including £3.3 million for Adult Social Care funded from the Adult Social Care precept, and £1 million to continue a permanent Environmental Fund to deliver on our commitment to address the Climate Change Emergency. 

This budget proposal will be presented to the Cabinet on 9 February 2021, if passed this will then go to Borough Council on 2 March 2021 for approval. 

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