Saturday, 7 February 2009

Deputation to Tower Hamlets Council

On Monday 9th February, I will be presenting the following deputation to the Tower Hamlets full Council. I have 5 mins to speak, then there will be 5 mins for questions from the Council members, followed by the Lead Member for Resources, Joshua Peck, having 3 mins to reply.

Petition from Ms Claire Palmer and others regarding the economic downturn’s effect on residents.

The latest reports on the state of the economy confirms that we are in the worst economic situation for 50 years and that all other financial downturns pale into insignificance in relation the situation we find ourselves in. Although the British economy has been relatively robust so far, there is no doubt it will see a severe slowdown, with growth expected to decelerate from 3% last year to just 1.7% next year by the best forecasts.

This has begun to have an affect on the average family with second quarter repossessions up by 71% on last year’s figures. Alongside this we have seen a rise in unemployment with more then 40,000 extra people signing on for unemployment benefit in November and a projected rise of the unemployment figures to 3.3 million by 2010. Significantly for Tower Hamlets, we have also seen a sharp decline in the number of new homes being built so that 2008 will be the worst year for house building since 1957. Since so many of the governments and council plans, including the pledge by Labour councillors at the last election to see £300 million new housing in the borough, depend on the private sector’s robust building plans this will have an effect on the provision of affordable housing for residents.

Tower Hamlets is the 4th most deprived borough in London with only half its population economically active and therefore heavily susceptible to a downturn of this kind. Based on the council’s own data from its local resident survey 2008, around 20% of the population was concerned about a lack of jobs within the area while the supply of affordable housing was considered a concern to most residents. Areas of high prosperity in the borough depend on the economic health of Canary Wharf while large parts of the borough look to the retail sector. Both of these areas will be hit hard by any down turn in spending with a subsequent rise in residents concerns over lack of employment and housing.

We Ask the Council to Note

· That the economic downturn is going to have a large effect on the borough’s residents and a proportionately higher effect on those who are less financially well off;
· That residents are going to need all the money that they can get their hands on in the months ahead;
· That shops and businesses in the area depend on people spending money to stay in business and to provide employment to people in the area;
· That the council can have both a positive and negative affect on the lives of residents depending on the decisions it takes.

We Residents Believe

· That the current economic situation poses a grave risk to the lives and businesses of residents of this borough;
· That it is the role of the council to provide as much assistance as is possible, within the limits placed upon it by financial restraint and governmental control, to residents of this borough;
· That costs levied by the council in the form of council tax, service charges, fees and administration costs are a strain on hard pressed families at this time and should be limited as far as possible;
· That business rates should be set at a level that reflects the hardship that many local businesses are facing.

We Call Upon the Council and the Leader of the Council to Ensure

· That council services for 2008/09 and 2009/10 are capable of delivering the services that people of this borough will need at this time;
· That the council’s elderly and child services are aware that more elderly residents and children in the borough will suffer as a result of increased costs and declining income;
· That the council ensures that all residents are made fully aware of council and governmental schemes available to them to help alleviate the worst effects of this downturn;
· That the council does all it can to ensure that business rates are lowered to allow local shops to compete better in the months ahead;
· That council tax and services charges are capped at their present level for the next two years ;
· That the council should use all its influence on the local RSL’s to cap their service charges.

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