Hornchurch & Upminster MP, Julia Lopez, has met Local Government Minister, Simon Hoare, in the next stage of her work to help Havering Council balance its budget.
The meeting on Wednesday is the latest in a series of meetings that Mrs Lopez has organised with Government to discuss budgetary pressures from the borough’s growing population with care needs.
While the Council’s core spending power (the combined sum of council tax, government grant and business rates) has increased by 37.1% since the 2015-16, the rapid growth of Havering’s children’s and elderly populations has increased the demand for local services, including from those with complex needs.
Since Mrs Lopez’s October meeting with Ministers, the government announced in December that Havering’s spending power would increase by 6.2%, with an additional £5.6m of grants. Separately, the Transport Secretary wrote to the local MP just before Christmas to confirm that Havering will receive £10.4m over the next decade to improve roads and fill pot holes - money that will go directly to the Council after Mrs Lopez successfully argued for it to bypass the Mayor of London.
While Mrs Lopez has welcomed the extra cash in the government’s grant to Havering, she reiterated her call to Mr Hoare that Havering’s special circumstances be taken into account as a borough with one of the fastest growing populations of young people in the country. The Minister confirmed that the government is actively considering what extra support can be given to Havering and that constructive talks will continue.
The local MP also set out how the Council can be supported with work to drive inward investment via the Thames Freeport. Since 2013, councils have been able to retain at least half of the business rates they collect instead of giving them to central government to incentivise them to grow the number of businesses in their area. Last year, Havering Council benefited from £35.8m in funding that it would not have otherwise retained.
In March of last year, the nearby Thames Freeport was approved by Government, opening the way for the economic zone including Havering, Barking & Dagenham and Thurrock alongside Ford, DP World and Forth Ports to benefit from over £4.6bn in new public and private investment. This presents significant opportunities for Havering to attract businesses into the area, providing jobs for residents and increased revenue for the Council. Mrs Lopez discussed with the Minister how the department can work with the Council to help it to maximise these opportunities.
Commenting after the meeting, Mrs Lopez said:
‘I am very grateful to the Local Government Minister for the chance to speak about Havering’s budget challenges.
While I welcome the increased funding that the Government has already made available to Havering, I impressed upon the Minister how increased demand for services from the borough’s changing population is squeezing the council’s budget. I hope we can work together in the coming weeks to address these issues to the benefit of the residents I represent in Hornchurch & Upminster.’