Havering Council's 'make or break budget' could axe funding for all Christmas events

  • Anila Dhami visited a Market at risk in Havering

Havering Council has launched what Council Leader Ray Morgon calls “a make or break budget” as the authority faces an unprecedented financial crisis.

The Council is facing a £31.2 million budget gap in 2024/25, which will rise to £77 million over the next four years.

Last week (8 November), Havering’s Cabinet agreed on a range of savings proposals for public consultation.

A Council Tax increase of 4.99% was proposed, along with stopping some services and significanly changing others to plug the £31.2 million budget black hole.

Other proposals include increased parking charges, reviewing libraries and children’s centres and stopping funding for all Christmas events, lights and trees in town centres.

The leader of Havering Council, Councillor Ray Morgon said:

“The Council is on the brink of financial crisis. This is not our fault but rather as a result of a number of factors beyond our control.

"This includes drastic cuts to our government funding, a significant spike in homelessness and housing need, coupled with unprecedented demand for both adults’ and children’s social care.

"This means we are now in a position where we cannot be certain in being able to put forward a balanced budget which we have to do by law."

“This is not where we want to be. We will continue to strongly lobby the Government and are having weekly meetings with officials pushing for further help. But in the meantime we will have to take some difficult and painful decisions.

He continued: “We know that the proposals in this consultation will mean significant changes to what we do and how we do it, and that those changes will impact many residents.

“We are launching this budget consultation to give residents the chance to share their views on how our budget proposals might affect them, the people they know and their communities.

“We are living in challenging times, but I promise we will continue to act in the best interests of residents and to listen to their views while we do all we can to present a balanced budget, which we must do by law.”

The consultation is open until Monday 18 December, and residents of Havering Council can take part online or via paper copies of the consultation placed at local libraries.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said:

“Local authorities have seen an increase in Core Spending Power of up to £5.1 billion or 9.4% in cash terms on 2022/23, with almost £60 billion available for local government in England.

“For Havering Council, this represents an increase in Core Spending Power of up to £18.5 million (9.2%) – making available a total of up to £218.7 million in 2023-24.

"We stand ready to speak to any council that has concerns about its ability to manage its finances or faces pressures it has not planned for.”

Additional to the consultation, a series of public meetings will also be held at council venues across the borough.