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Drivers set to help plug hole in Town Hall’s coffers

Hikes in penalty charge notices, pay-and-display parking fees and diesel surcharge, as Islington Council faces funding shortfall

15 January, 2021 — By Calum Fraser

THE Town Hall is set to squeeze an extra £1.7million out of drivers in the next year as council chiefs aim to plug the black hole left in their finances by the coronavirus pandemic.

The council faces a £25million hole in its finances it was announ­ced on Wednesday as the budget for the coming year was published.

In response, Town Hall officials set out a list of areas that will be targeted in the next 12 months to fill that gap.

This includes raising an extra £679,000 in the environment and transport department by hiring a “Contract Performance Manager” and “associated data analyst” to “increase PCN [penalty charge notices] issue rate”.

They also expect to raise nearly half a million by increasing the pay-and-display parking fees in the borough for all vehicles, while the diesel surcharge will be bumped up from £3 an hour to £5 to raise a further £397,000.

Finance chief Labour councillor Satnam Gill said: “Despite the government’s promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to fund the response to the pandemic, there remains a significant shortfall between what we’ve received from government and what we’ve had to spend in supporting our residents and businesses.”

Cllr Gill added: “This budget is absolutely focused on rebuilding a fairer Islington in a post-Covid world, building more council homes that local people need, tackling the climate crisis head-on by turning our vision for a net zero-carbon borough into reality.”

Cllr Richard Watts

A £17million investment in green initiatives was also announced as part of the budget plans, including £6million for the controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes that have seen roads across the ­borough blocked with bollards or cameras – sparking outrage from some in the borough.

Town Hall leader Cllr Richard Watts said: “We don’t see People Friendly Streets as a revenue raiser. The aim of the policy is that people don’t go through the closures rather than that they do.

“We only use cameras because the emergency services asked us to do that, we would prefer to enforce them with bollards.”

Other green initiatives include investing £8m in electrifying the council’s fleet of vehicles, installing more than 150 on-street bike hangars and planting more than 400 trees.

Council tax bills in the borough are also set to rise again this year by 1.99 per cent as well as 3 per cent adult social care precept.

Cllr Watts said: “The government are saying that the only new money available for social care is from council tax, which I think is the wrong way to fund adult social care, but we are effectively being told to increase council tax by about 5 per cent, which reluctantly we are doing.”

The overall annual cost of adult social care in Islington is about £138m, out of a budget of more than a £1bn.

In the past 10 years the government has asked Islington to make at least £250m of cuts.

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