Council chamber
Inflation will cost the council £24 million alone next year

Greenwich’s council tax bills will be going up by 5 per cent from April – with the town hall putting in the highest possible increase.

Senior councillors will be asked to sign off on the plans next week, along with the council’s financial strategy for the next four years.

A boost in town centre street cleaning is promised, though, with the return of a jet-washing machine that was mothballed in a previous round of cuts.

Council tax will go up by 2.99 per cent, with another 2 per cent added as part of the adult social care precept. A referendum would have to be called if the council proposed a higher increase.

London mayor Sadiq Khan is also imposing a rise of 9.7 per cent to his portion of council tax – meaning that overall bills are expected to rise by about 6 per cent, with a band D household being charged £1,814 by both the council and City Hall.

Council rents will also be going up by 7 per cent, the maximum permitted amount, taking the average weekly rent to over £100 for the first time, although they are expected to remain the cheapest in London. There will also be a similar increase to service charges.

The council estimates it has lost £150m a year in funding because of the austerity policies pursued by the Conservative government after 2010.

“Since the start of austerity in 2010, the pressures on scarce revenue resources have grown and over the last few years due to an increasing demand from a growing population, complex need patterns, price increases and reduction in government funding,” a report to councillors.

The impact of inflation alone is set to cost the council £27 million next year, it predicts.

Neighbouring Lewisham will also put its council tax rates up by 4.99 per cent, while Bexley’s increase has yet to be announced. Council tax in Greenwich is cheaper than both neighbouring boroughs.

The council’s Eltham jet washer – seen on a trip to Plumstead in 2018 – will return

The council plans to spend an extra £1.2 million per year on street and waste services, recruiting an extra 25 HGV drivers. It also plans to recruit a training officer following a number of incidents involving the council’s refuse fleet. “This investment would deliver improved waste collection service standards with a highly increased regularity of daily schedules being completed on time,” the report says.

Another £578,000 will be spent on jetwashing town centres in Greenwich, Woolwich, Eltham, Plumstead and Abbey Wood with a machine that was taken out of use under former council leader Danny Thorpe in January 2020.

The machine had been bought just three years before with TfL funds allocated to a revamp of Eltham High Street, but was drafted into use across the borough before cuts were made.

Anti-flytipping taskforces, which targeted specific neighbourhoods, will also return along with extra cleaning in Woolwich and Plumstead.

“This investment would deliver improvements in the quality of the public realm in town centres and Plumstead High Street leading to better experience and increased usage,” the report says.

There will also be £239,000 to help target cleaning and antisocial behaviour in parks, with the aim of winning more Green Flag awards.

Other money includes £170,000 on a sustainability team to help the council’s carbon neutral ambitions, and £220,000 on a new community engagement team. Another half a million pounds will go towards developing a housing strategy to cope with the borough’s growing population.

Meanwhile, the council plans to increase burial fees to match neighbouring boroughs, while new LED street lights – which are already dimmed after midnight – could be dimmed further to save money and carbon emissions, although there are safety concerns and tests will be carried out first.

Council leader Anthony Okereke called on local residents to sign a letter to the prime minister to demand more government funding from the council, saying: “Government funding is based out of date formulas and old data about our population. Residents in Greenwich deserve more funding than we are getting.”

But the borough’s Tory opposition leader, Matt Hartley, said that the reinstatement of jet washing came after pressure from his party: “The jet-washing service should never have been withdrawn, and I’m pleased that the council will resume this service. This is a good outcome for residents, and a testament to my predecessor Nigel Fletcher’s hard work on last year’s budget. They could save everyone a lot of time by adopting our good ideas at the time, rather than putting on this political dance.”

Councillors on the overview and scrutiny panel will examine the budget plans next Wednesday, before the council’s cabinet meets to discuss them and the council tax increase next Thursday.

Updated to include Lewisham’s increase and quotes from Anthony Okereke and Matt Hartley.

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