Southwark’s cabinet backed a 4.99 per cent council tax hike on Tuesday (February 2) as it approved next year’s budget.  

The budget will next go to Council Assembly near the end of the month.  

Southwark Council is proposing £14.7 million in budget cuts next year, £2.7 million of which will affect services.   

It is also planning to take £5 million from its around £21 million reserves to balance the budget.    

Part of the cuts will include job losses in senior management and elsewhere, as well as closing an adult day centre for good.     

On Tuesday the cabinet pulled a £160,000 cut to the public health budget, which would have taken away funding for GP long-acting reversible contraception, until the council has more discussions with GPs.  

Cllr Evelyn Akoto said the move came after “receiving further information and talking to partners”.  

“We hope to make an in-year saving, but we will do that after we consult,” she said.  

The cabinet member for finance and resources, Cllr Rebecca Lury, said in a foreword to the budget report: “Despite the Government’s announcement of additional funding for local government through the Local Government Finance Settlement, there was little in the way of new money with the largest part of the increase in spending power coming from council tax increases and the social care precept.  

“Accordingly, and in order to protect vital frontline services, we are proposing that we raise council tax by the maximum permitted 4.99 per cent, inclusive of three per cent ring-fenced for adult social care.  

“This ensures that in the toughest of times we are able to protect services for our most vulnerable residents and the services that our residents value and depend on.  

“We recognise the pressure that this can add on low-income households so our council tax support scheme will remain unchanged.  

“This means that around 15,000 working age households will continue to receive support and 6,700 eligible pensioners will continue to receive 100 per cent relief.” 

Included in the council’s budget is an injection of £500,000 to go towards tackling food poverty in the borough and £300,000 to go to the Southwark Stands Together project, a borough-wide initiative in response to the killing of George Floyd. 

It aims to tackle the injustice and racism experienced by Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and the inequalities exposed by Covid-19. 

The council is also putting £100,000 into the Covid-19 community hub “to ensure the voluntary sector continues to be supported”.  

After examining the budget, Southwark’s overview and scrutiny committee made a set of recommendations last week.  

It said the cabinet should ensure that service users are continually engaged in the cuts process and should generally monitor the budget closely throughout the year as demand for spending could increase or decrease.  

The council is planning to use S106 funding for a variety of services going forward. 

But the OSC said: “These incomes will be impacted by the Covid-19 recession and [the committee] wants to receive regular updates on the collection and use of this funding to ensure services that are dependent on it remain fully funded and will accommodate for a spike in demand as a result of the recession in the years ahead.” 

The committee was also concerned about increased pest control charges and how they would impact low-income families.  

The cabinet said: “It should be noted that treatments for the most common pest types found in Southwark remain free of change at the point of service for all council tenants and any leaseholder whose property in included in our pest control block treatment programme.  

“Also, to lessen the financial impact on low-income families or individuals who are required to pay for our service, a 50 per cent price reduction remains in place for residents who are in receipt of a ‘passported’ benefit and/or state pension.” 

The committee also recommended monitoring the progress out reducing agency staff carefully, given the budget depends on those savings.  

The OSC also said that cabinet should review and potentially offer mental and physical health support towards the latter stages of the Covid crisis for Southwark residents.