Councillor Damian White, Leader of Havering Council, writes in this week’s Enquirer.
“Next week Council members will agree our spending ambitions over the next four years, including the Council’s budget for 2019/20.
I am proud to present a budget which sets out to make our residents’ lives better. It will focus on improving our streets, roads, parks and schools, as well as continuing to provide quality care which supports our most vulnerable.
The decisions also taken will form part of a much bigger conversation about how we can make Havering an even better place to live, work and do business.
However, before we set any council budget, the most important thing is to listen to what people have had to say.
This is just what we have done and people told us that one of their major issues is the state of our roads and pavements. And, even though Havering is a safe borough, people are worried about safety after dark.
We also heard that the quality of care provided to people who are more vulnerable should be a priority.
People want to be proud of where they live and take pride in keeping it special, while they also value their weekly bin collection.
Despite the significant savings that the Council has to make over the next three years, which is our contribution to reducing the national deficit, we have managed to take on board all these issues as part of our proposals for the 2019/20 budget and beyond.
Last week Cabinet approved plans to spend £40 million over the next four years on improving the quality of our roads and pavements. This will see the worst roads resurfaced and thousands of potholes fixed.
In doing so, it shows our commitment to make it easier for residents and businesses to get around the borough.
To help fund the improvements we are looking to change parking charges in two of our town centres bringing them into line with Romford.
I know this may not be popular with some, but the money will be spent on solving one of Havering’s biggest issues, which is dealing with the state of our roads.
Rather than burdening council tax payers with all the cost, I think it is fair to also ask people who do not live in our borough, but use our roads, to make a contribution. Even with the proposed changes, the cost of parking in Havering is still competitive with our neighbours, both in London and Essex.
In the budget you will also see that we are maintaining a weekly refuse collection and investing £400,000 to increase street cleaning in residential areas. We want people to feel proud of where they live and this investment will help make Havering even cleaner.
We are largely protecting spend on social care that makes such a difference to people’s lives and investing in CCTV to improve community safety.
Through this process we will make £14.6 million of savings as part of the £37m we need to save over the next three years.
While we are doing everything we can to make those savings in ways that you won’t notice – for example by continuing to cut our back office costs and delivering services in a different way- there is no doubt that we will face some tough decisions.
I am proud of this budget. It responds to and acts on the issues that matter to our community the most. It is an ambitious budget that will bring significant improvements and investment in neighbourhoods, job creation and more genuinely affordable housing. It is a budget which shows that this Council listens to our residents. Even with the headwinds we face, we will protect the things which matter most and set out to improve the lives of residents by making Havering an even better place to live.”