Council tax rise planned after cost of Covid leaves huge budget gap

Picture: André Langlois

Picture: André Langlois - Credit: André Langlois

Brent Council is facing a funding gap of £5.1 million over the next two years as it announced its “most challenging” draft budget in history.

It intends to implement a council tax increase of 4.99 per cent for next year, with three per cent ring-fenced for social care.

The council’s cabinet approved initial proposals covering 2021/22 and 2022/23, which will be subject to consultation.

They outline cuts of £1.6 million, including a review of the borough’s transport service and the removal of several job roles.

Customer services at Brent Civic Centre will also be reviewed, with the possibility of reduced customer-facing hours.

The draft budget notes an estimated £1 million worth of savings due to reduced Freedom Pass usage, with cuts to procurement spending set to bring in the same amount.

A further £1.5 million should be saved through the number of staff who have successfully applied for voluntary redundancy at the council.

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Cllr Margaret McLennan, deputy leader of Brent Council, said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the lasting effect of austerity measures, had made this most recent budget setting process a testing one.

“This is the most challenging budget that we have had to set to date,” she said.

“I hope cabinet can accept this and move things forwards so we can help our residents.”

Speaking of the council tax increase, she explained it would allow the council to take advantage of the “full amount” devoted to social care.

“We know there are areas that we will need to fund that can’t get through this pandemic – it’s vital we have the facilities to support these people as we should,” she added.

Cllr Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council, noted things are “not set in stone” and the council should be prepared to adapt quickly if necessary.

“We need a greater degree of openness and transparency from the Government around our funding,” he said. “We are only acting upon the advice given to us.”

He added he was pleased to see a “credible” and “deliverable” budget put forward, which will be assessed between now and February.