Supporting local people to cope with the cost-of-living crisis – and building a more equal Islington for everyone amid the Covid-19 pandemic – are the key drivers of Islington Council’s budget proposals for the next financial year.

Many people are starting the New Year already under strain, paying higher prices for basics like food and energy bills than they were a year ago – plus inflation, interest rate rises and the continued uncertainty and devastation wreaked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council is responding by boosting financial support to protect the vulnerable and those who need it most, as well as pressing ahead with tackling the issues that matter most to local people. There will be continued investment in ambitious new-build council housing programme to create hundreds of new, decent homes in the borough, as well as investing in both young people’s services and measures to keep women and girls safe from abuse. The council will also focus its efforts on tackling the climate crisis by working with residents and businesses to create a net zero-carbon borough by the end of the decade.

The proposed budget for 2022/23 includes:

Putting an extra £676,000 into our Council Tax Support Scheme to further reduce the council tax bills of around 19,000 low-income working age households;

Quadrupling the size of the childcare bursary scheme to £160,000, enabling up to 300 more parents to afford to get back into work or training;

Investing an extra £1 million per year through our Fairer Together programme to work with partners and voluntary organisations to provide 1-2-1 support and community activities to vulnerable residents;

Continuing the new-build council housing programme, with work starting on another 228 homes by the end of 2022; funding to start the redevelopment of the Finsbury Leisure Centre site to create more than 100 genuinely affordable homes, with new leisure and medical facilities; and the proposed purchase and redevelopment of the former Holloway Police Station site to create more genuinely affordable homes;

Investing more than £7.3 million in a host of projects to support the council’s Vision 2030 strategy to become a net-zero carbon borough by the end of the decade. We will also plant more than 650 new trees next year, and spend £15 million over three years on further electrifying the council’s vehicle fleet and the supporting infrastructure – part of a £39 million, 10-year investment;

Committing an extra £500,000 to a new and improved youth offer to help ensure Islington’s young people have the best start in life;

Pressing ahead with a £2 million programme to become national leaders in tackling all forms of violence and abuse against women and girls (VAWG).

Demand for the council’s services has risen sharply due to the Covid-19 pandemic and all its consequences for residents and businesses, but Central Government funding has failed to keep pace. This year it will have to make savings of £6.7 million to balance the books – on top of 11 years of Central Government austerity and funding cuts, which has forced the council to make budget savings of £281 million.

Despite these cuts, the council continues to invest in innovation and protecting the services local people value and rely on, including protecting free school meals for every primary school pupil, keeping our libraries open, maintaining weekly recycling and rubbish collections and a regular street sweeping programme. The council continues to provide employment support and has exceeded its target of helping 4,000 residents into jobs over four years. It has also distributed more than £126 million in business support grants to more than 22,000 businesses in the borough.

Cllr Satnam Gill, the council’s Executive Member for Finance and Performance, said: “The dramatic rise in energy bills and the price of food and essential items means many more people are now struggling to make ends meet, while the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has put people out of work and pushed straining household finances to breaking point.

“Even though Central Government funding has dismally failed to keep pace with the costs we face from hugely increased demand for our services, we’re determined to make Islington a more equal place for all – and will do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“This means we’ll continue investing in the measures that support those most in need to live greener, healthier and safer lives with more opportunities, greater financial security, better-quality homes and improved job prospects, creating stronger communities.

“So, I’m proud to be extending the Council Tax Support Scheme to put money back in the pockets of around 19,000 low-income, working age households. It’s also important to recognise that many parents’ efforts to return to work to provide for their family are thwarted by the costs of childcare, so we are boosting the childcare bursary scheme to help hundreds more start that journey – an investment that will particularly support women back to work as they too often take on the bulk of childcare responsibilities.

“We also continue to tackle the issues that local people care about most, such as investing in our ambitious new-build council housing programme, putting more funds into tackling the climate crisis, and committing an extra £500,000 per year to improve youth services across the borough, ensuring our young people really do have the best start in life. This budget shows just how determined we are to make Islington a more equal place for everyone.”

The budget proposals will go to the council’s Executive on Thursday, 13 January, before being debated by full council on Thursday, 3 March, when the council’s budget for 2022/23 will be set.

The budget proposals can be read in full at:

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