Councillors in Brent agreed a 4.99 per cent council tax increase and cuts of £1.6 million as it confirmed its “most difficult budget in its 50-year history”.

They approved plans put forward by the council’s financial officers for 2021/22 at a full council meeting yesterday (Monday, February 22).

As part of the proposals, council tax will rise by 4.99 per cent, with three per cent ringfenced for adult social care, meaning a Band D property will pay around £5.40 extra per month.

Savings of around £1.6 million were also agreed, which will cover some job losses at the council as well as an expected reduction in energy usage at public buildings.

The delivery of customer services will also be reviewed – bringing in an additional £75,000 – though there are plans to retain the four hours a day, five days a week front desk at the civic centre.

“There is an understandable concern regarding the need to increase council tax – we as an administration we take no pleasure in putting additional financial pressures on this borough’s residents,” said Cllr Muhammed Butt (Lab, Tokyngton), leader of Brent Council.

“Those critical of the increase need to understand the terms of the Chancellor’s recent financial settlement for local government, [where he] has imposed a near-mandatory maximum uplift in council tax.

“Even in the best of circumstances difficult choices must be made – we are faced with irreparable damage to this borough’s finances and services that so many people depend upon or manageable pressures on household finances.”

He added Brent continues to offer “one of the most substantive” council tax support packages in London to help those “unable to manage themselves”.

Cllr Butt was supported by a series of his party colleagues, including Cllr Matt Kelcher (Lab, Kensal Green) who pointed out the difficulties faced by local authorities following years of austerity and the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This might be the most difficult budget in our borough’s 50-year history,” Cllr Kelcher said.

“Brent’s [central funding] grant has been cut by 78 per cent – this has left the council in a far weaker position to deal with the pandemic than it should have been.

“And it means we do not have enough income each year for what we want to spend on services, which is the heart of our revenue problem.”

Alternative proposals put forward by opposition parties – which suggested a reduction in council tax – were rejected based on the financial risk attached to future budgets.

Those outside the Labour Group – Cllr Suresh Kansagra, Cllr Reg Colwill, Cllr Michael Maurice (all Con, Kenton), and Cllr Anton Georgiou (Lib Dem, Alperton) – voted against the council’s plans, Cllr Kieron Gill (Lab, Brondesbury Park) abstained, and all others backed the officers’ recommendations.