Last night we set the Lewisham Council budget. I wanted to explain to you all why we have had to increase council tax.
In 2010, most of our funding came from central government. But since then, the Tory Government has slashed funding for Lewisham Council, forcing us to make £138.8 million of savings. The Government’s ideologically driven cuts, and their desire to shrink the state, have put us in a terrible situation. Unlike NHS Trusts, or indeed the Government itself, the council is required by law to set a balanced budget. If we do not, then the Government will enforce one on us, with no say for our community.
This year we will increase council tax by 4.99%. We do so with regret, as we know that council tax is a deeply regressive tax, which hits poor working households the hardest. But we do so in an effort to protect - as far as possible - the services that our community relies on in particular Adult Social Care, and the support that we provide to our most vulnerable residents.
Even in these tough times though, there are still things that we can do to make a difference. We are striving to tackle the Tory housing crisis, by building 2,000 affordable homes including the first council homes in a generation. In Place Ladywell we have delivered an innovative solution for families in temporary accommodation. We were the first Living Wage council in the country. We will continue to pay the real Living Wage, and in the last year, our business rate incentive scheme has more than trebled the number of Living Wage employers in Lewisham.
If you want to find out more about our budget, you can do so here.
We need to continue to fight back against this wretched and deeply ideological government, and make the case for decent funding for councils, and for local services like adult social care. They are putting our NHS at risk. Labour – both locally and nationally – is the Party that speaks for Britain when we say the Government must act now and provide the funding needed to stop the NHS crisis.
Mayor Steve Bullock