Islington Council budget to include £40m for biggest council house-building programme in 30 years. Islington Council’s budget proposals for 2017/18 include £40 million to build badly-needed new council homes, funding for services to support local residents into work, and an end to council tax for care leavers. The council yesterday (Wednesday) published its budget proposals, which focus on the top priorities for Islington in the face of ongoing government cuts to the borough’s funding.
By 2020, the council will have lost 70 per cent of its core Government funding since 2010. The council has pledged to focus its remaining funds on the top priorities for Islington. Budget proposals include:
• Housing – Islington is facing a housing crisis, with a desperate shortage of affordable homes. The 2017/18 budget allocates £40 million for new council housing in the borough, including schemes at Dover Court in Canonbury and King Square in Bunhill ward.
• Employment – the council has helped more than 2,700 unemployed local people into paid work since 2014’s Islington Employment Commission, through key services such as Islington’s iWork programme. These were previously largely funded by New Homes Bonus paid by the government, but government changes to New Homes Bonus mean this funding will end. The council itself will pay £3 million a year to continue its employment services.
• Young people – Islington will scrap council tax for young people leaving care. This will help care leavers as they make the transition into adulthood. They will not have to pay council tax in Islington until they are 25.
Cllr Andy Hull, Islington Council’s executive member for finance, performance and community safety, said: “We are determined to focus on dealing with Islington’s top priorities, despite ongoing government cuts to our funding, the sheer scale of which places massive pressure on budgets and services.
“Our 2017/18 budget includes funding for our new council-home building programme, the biggest for a generation, which will provide badly needed new homes for local residents.
“We are also committing to maintaining our employment services, which otherwise would no longer be funded because of government changes to the New Homes Bonus. Also, in a new move, we will scrap council tax for young people in Islington who have left local authority care.”
Sam Royston, Policy Director at The Children’s Society, said: “Care leavers have often experienced abuse, neglect or family breakdown in childhood and their life chances are likely to be significantly worse than for those who have not grown up in care. Without the family safety net that most young people have as they become adults, they can struggle to juggle their household bills and make ends meet. Many find themselves in debt, or having to go without food or other basic necessities.
“To expect some of the country’s most vulnerable young people to start paying council tax just days after leaving care is setting them up to fail. That’s why The Children’s Society has been calling on local authorities – who take on parental responsibilities for children in care – to exempt those leaving care from paying council tax until they turn 25. We’re delighted that Islington Council has taken this vital step to support care leavers, and we would urge other councils to follow their lead.”
Because of ongoing government cuts and pressures such as increased service demand, the council needs to make £21.4 million savings in 2017/18.
The council proposes to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent to help pay for essential local services.
It also proposes to apply the government’s social care precept of 3 per cent on council tax to help pay for adult social care in Islington.
Next Thursday (19 January) the budget proposals will go to the council’s Executive, before being debated by full council on 23 February, when the council’s budget for 2017/18 will be set.