Hillingdon residents will see their council tax bills go up by an average of £66 as the council looks to find an extra £27.5million to cover expected rises in costs and demand for services. The council approved in principle a budget proposal in a brisk cabinet meeting on Thursday evening (December 14). In the half an hour meeting members discussed how to balance the books from the 2024/25 to the 2028/29 financial years.
Read out by council leader Ian Edwards in place of Cllr Martin Goddard, who was too ill to attend, he said: “This has not been an easy budget to put together. We remain in a challenging economic environment with inflation at a higher rate than predicted by the Bank of England a year ago.”
Government funding is not keeping up with inflation, he added, so raising council tax was needed to help balance the budget. A 2.99 per cent increase to council tax was proposed along with a 2 per cent precept to fund residents’ adult social care, meaning a combined 4.99 per cent rise for households – the maximum amount a council can raise the tax by without a referendum.
The council says this equates to £1.27 a week for a Band D property, or across the year this would be £66.04, with Cllr Edwards quick to remind residents that they pay some of the lowest levels of council tax in outer London.
Inflation will account for an extra £17m that the council must conjure up while increased service demand will mean finding £10.5m more. Cllr Edwards said: “We continue to see increased demand for our services particularly in areas of social care, housing and homelessness.”
Some of these increased costs are broken down into £3.2m more for adult social care, £2.4m for homelessness prevention, £1.9m for special educational needs transport and £1.7m for waste. Some of the money the council is looking to recoup in order to keep their budget balanced will be through ‘efficiencies’ with a further £33.4 million earmarked for the period between 2024/25 and 2028/29, including £15.8 million in 2024/25.
While it doesn’t explain in detail what will be cut, among the earmarked areas the report lists are ‘workforce’ and ‘service tranformation’. As part of a wider investment strategy, the council has proposed using funds for its capital programme to spend £217.8 million on services, facilities, schools and infrastructure over the next five years.
This includes £16.7m to complete the construction of the new West Drayton Leisure Centre in 2025/26, and £23.3m to develop the new Hillingdon Water Sports facility, replacing facilities dispersed by the HS2 project.
A further £441.8m has been allocated to increase and improve the council’s housing stock. The council currently has a £2,000 surplus in its budget from the current financiual year, measured against where it had budgeted to be. This is despite an in-year overspend of £12.8m which has been driven by ‘high needs placement demand’ and ‘cost pressures’.