On Wednesday 26 February, Havering Council held a Full Council meeting to set the new budget and Council Tax levels for the 2020/21 financial year.

The Haverings Resident Associations (H.R.A) member councillors (with support from the Residents’ Association of Emerson Park, who are also H.R.A members) joined together to propose an alternative to the Conservative Administration’s proposed budget. This did not involve radical changes but dealt with specific points that residents and businesses have highlighted in the past year.

Firstly, the Residents Associations budget proposed the full reinstatement of the 30 minutes free parking in Hornchurch and Upminster car parks. This was calculated to be at a cost of £430,000.

To balance the council budget (a legal requirement), they proposed the following savings –

1) Ceasing production of the Living in Havering publication, which has been criticised as being used primarily as a promotion tool for the current administration. The saving for this would be £167,000.

2) Reduce the Communications Department budget by £70,000.

3) Remove the funding of £37,000 for the Romford Christmas lights switch-on event and seek outside sponsorship.

4) Review of Member Allowances. The Conservative administration proposed to raise member allowances and create new cabinet posts, at an additional cost of £44,000. The Residents Association groups proposed to scrap these increases and also make a further £123,000 in savings.

Taken together, these measures would have meant that the free parking could be returned, without having any effect on the important services that people value in the borough.

When a vote was held, the Residents Associations alternative budget was unfortunately defeated by 29 votes to 23 (Two members were absent due to sickness). All 23 Conservative Councillors, plus the three councillors representing Harold Wood Ward, voted against our proposals. The Administration’s budget was then passed by the same margin. This means that the Council Tax for Havering was set at £1,795.84 for a band D property.

Immediately prior to the main votes above, a separate vote was held on the Residents Associations proposals for Member Allowances. Again, their proposals to reduce such allowances were defeated by 29 votes to 23 and the Administration’s proposals approved (same voting patterns). A separate post will be added giving more details of the new allowances and the H.R.A alternative proposals.