Hackney told to balance budget

Local government minister Stephen Byers said he was taking action to safeguard key services, using powers under the 1999 Local Government Act which allows departments to issue ‘directions’ to local councils.

Hackney has been told to balance its budget and produce an action plan establishing a new financial management system.

Byers said: ‘It is unacceptable that people who live or work in Hackney should have to suffer poor services because of the council’s corporate failure.’

Five government departments today issued draft directions to the council requiring service improvements in education, social services, waste management and housing benefits.

Hackney now has two weeks to respond to the government.

Back in June, Byers had threatened to intervene in the running of council services, a move backed by the Audit Commission’s Best Value report in July.

Other ministers joined Byers in condemning the crisis in Hackney.

Margaret Beckett, environment minister, said: ‘Hackney must improve their dismal recycling record and their poor overall performance on waste collection services so that residents get a quality of service at a price they can afford.’

Health minister Jacqui Smith said: ‘It is vital for some of the most vulnerable people in Hackney that social services continue to deliver and improve their services.’

Hackney’s leader, Cllr Jules Pipe, said the directions could be achieved with financial and management support.

Pipe said: ‘The government has made clear that in a number of areas this support will be forthcoming.’

Byers said the council’s leadership had agreed to appoint an independent person to monitor financial progress.


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