On Monday, Croydon Council agreed its budget for 2021/22 following our acceptance of a government offer for a capitalisation direction.
Now the budget is set, as leader of the council my absolute focus is ensuring we deliver it. This means continuing to improve how this council is run, living within our means yet providing the best services we can. Our budget will give priority to supporting adults and children in need, keeping the borough’s streets clean and safe, and addressing gaps in our funding caused by the demands of tackling Covid-19, which has already cost Croydon over £46m.
It also means finding further savings, improving our financial discipline and doing everything we can to put our finances on a sustainable footing. While setting this budget lifts the section 114 notice, our top priorities remain improving the council’s financial rigour through tight budget controls and focusing on supporting local people who need us most.
Next year’s approved budget includes a 1.99% council tax rise for Croydon services, and a 3% precept to look after the borough’s older and most vulnerable residents, which is what government is expecting in local authorities’ spending calculations. Along with the proposed Greater London Authority contribution, this means an overall increase of 5.83%, with an ‘average’ Band D property’s household paying an extra £2 per week. We did not take this decision to raise council tax lightly, but it means we can protect core council services and address funding gaps caused by the demands of our Covid-19 response. It also means there is around £84m extra to support our vulnerable adults.
We know many local residents have been hit hard by the pandemic, which is why our Council Tax Support Scheme will continue to help over 30,000 Croydon households. Your council tax makes a big contribution to our ability to fund key local services and we are determined that this council budget does this while we live within our means. And I promise you that we will continue to focus on delivering good-quality, core services to local people, especially those who need it most. You can find out more about our budget here.
Thank you to everyone who is supporting the extra Covid-19 testing we are delivering in South Norwood and Thornton Heath. From all the residents getting tested and the community groups helping to spread the word, to council staff delivering home test kits and others manning collection points or working hard behind the scenes, so many people are helping to deliver this important programme.
If you live in South Norwood or Thornton Heath and are aged over 16, it’s really important that you get a Covid-19 test now, whether or not you have symptoms. You can find out more, including how to get tested at www.croydon.gov.uk/CovidTest. By getting tested, you can help to prevent the virus spreading in your community while enabling better understanding of the variant.
I also want to thank residents in New Addington and Fieldway for their support with the extra testing programme in their area, which came to an end earlier this week. Thousands of residents came forward to get tested and we are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported this important public health work, helping to keep themselves and others safe.
We reached another milestone in the Covid-19 vaccination programme yesterday with the opening of Croydon’s second mass vaccination centre in the heart of our town centre. More than 100,000 Croydon residents have received their first dose, which is excellent news, and the NHS are now inviting people aged 55-59 to come for their Covid-19 vaccination. People in this age group, along with older adults, can book their vaccination appointment online via the National Booking Service. Making an appointment is quick and simple at nhs.uk/covidvaccine, or by phoning 119 if you aren’t online.
With this fantastic progress, and children and young people now back in the classroom, it is certainly starting to feel as though there is light at the end of the tunnel. I want to acknowledge all our school staff and pupils for everything they have done to make the return to school happen safely this week, particularly with the roll-out of lateral flow testing for secondary pupils. As leader of the council, I am really proud of the strength and resilience our young people have shown in the last year. You can see how they continue to playing their part in helping to keep our borough safe here.
Census Day 2021 takes place on Sunday 21 March and I urge all our residents to fill out this once-in-a-decade survey. The census provides a snapshot of every person and household in the country and, importantly, the most up-to-date and comprehensive possible information about Croydon. It helps the government to understand the size and needs of the population and informs their decisions to fund public services.
By taking part, you will help us to understand the local needs of our population and plan public services, such as new schools, doctors’ surgeries, nursery spaces or bike lanes for the future. It will help to highlight different communities’ needs and the inequalities some groups are experiencing more than others – which is more important than ever with the impact of the pandemic.
Ahead of Census Day, the Office for National Statistics will send out letters to every resident with an access code and instructions – you may have received yours already. Fill your census details in online or request a paper copy if you need one.
It’s really important that everyone takes part and there will be a range of support services to make sure Census 2021 is as accessible and inclusive as possible.
To find out more about the help available or details of your nearest support centre, please visit www.census.gov.uk or call free on 0800 141 2021.
Have a good weekend,
Councillor Hamida Ali, leader of the Council