Lambeth in Crisis: Unison Reports on the Upcoming Budget

Posted: February 5, 2013 by blackdaffodil in Uncategorized

The report to Cabinet next Monday (11 February) on Lambeth Council’s budget reveals how bleak the Council’s financial future currently looks. The recent past has been more than hard enough!

The numbers are almost impossibly hard to grasp as they are so large. To understand what is going on you need to remember that each budget covers a “financial year” (running from April to the end of March) and that the Council’s current revenue budget (that means the amount of money they spend on running expenses each year) will, based upon the report going to Cabinet next week, be around £330 Million in 2013/14 (the coming financial year).

In 2011/12 the Council spent more than £37 Million less than it had done in 2010/11. In the current financial year (2012/13) the Council has cut back more than another £29 Million. For the coming year (2013/14) a further £12.5 Million reduction has already been agreed, though not yet implemented (indeed some of the current financial year’s £29 Million of cuts are still being implemented).

Based upon current assumptions about the future of Government funding, the cuts ahead get worse again. In 2014/15 the Council will face cuts, compared to 2013/14, of more than £38 Million (about £9.5 Million of which have already been agreed). This will be followed by a further £30 Million in cuts comparing 2015/16 to 2014/15 and almost another £28 Million in the following year.

Adding these figures together shows that the Council has (or will have) made about £66 Million of spending cuts over the past two financial years – and face a further £108.5 Million of cuts, adding together those already planned and those yet to be planned up to 2016/17, assuming no change in Government – or Council – policy. The Cabinet report spells out the scale of this (in paragraph 1.15); “By 2016/17, the Council expects to have seen reductions in Government funding of around 45%. At the same time, inflation and new responsibilities – such as mitigating the impact of welfare reform changes – continue to put pressure on the Council’s spending. In total, savings delivered and required over the six years from 2011/12 to 2016/17 is anticipated to be £174m.”

So what does this mean in practice? We can’t see the future, but we can see the consequences of the cuts already made.

First, there are massive job losses underway and in prospect. Between April 2010 and September 2012 the Council made more than 550 redundancies, as its directly employed workforce fell from around 3,600 to fewer than 2,900 (as almost 100 jobs were also outsourced to Capita and Vangent). Senior Council officers are talking about another 1,000 job losses and – given that the Council has so far implemented only a little more than a third of the total cuts it expects up to April 2017, this doesn’t seem like exaggeration.

Secondly, we have seen the impact on services. Adventure Playgrounds stand closed, directly contradicting the promise made by former Council Leader Steve Reed to local young people at the Cabinet meeting in February 2011. Other services have seen reductions in staffing and opening hours, with changes in ways that services are delivered to the detriment of local people. I won’t go in to great detail here and now – the damage being done to local services by the cuts is documented further on this site and elsewhere.

Thirdly, finally – and most importantly – there is hope. Where there has been a fight back, based upon workplace trade union organisation – but often crucially supported by community anti-cuts campaigners – we have won victories. One O’clock Club workers faced and fought off mass dismissal in 2010. Library workers balloted for industrial action and thereby averted compulsory redundancies in 2011. Housing workers lobbied the Council against racially discriminatory redundancy proposals in 2012 – and expect to save jobs as a result.

With considerably more cuts coming than have yet been made, we need to build upon the experience of these successful struggles to take an argument to our Councillors that (in line with UNISON’s national policy of opposition to cuts) they need to stop implementing the Government’s attacks upon local people – and start leading local people in opposition to this Government and their attacks.

 

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