At its meeting last night (24 November) the cabinet approved plans to save a further £14.7million over the next three years, on top of the £152.8million of savings already agreed.
By 2020 the council anticipates it will have less than half what it had in 2010 to spend on services. The reduction in funding has already meant the end of some local services and others changing beyond recognition. These additional savings will mean even more difficulty in providing the vital services residents rely on.
Years of austerity and on-going cuts to public sector funding are expected to mean that the council will see its main government grant eliminated, with local services funded instead entirely through council tax, business rates and fees and charges for its services.
The council anticipates that even after last night's cabinet decision it will still need to find at least another £37million of cuts by April 2020 – that is the equivalent of more than the entire annual running costs for all the council’s refuse and recycling, street cleaning, parks, heritage and libraries services put together.
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of the council, said: “This is the fifth consecutive year that the government has slashed our funding and each time it becomes more difficult to make the savings. We have a growing and ageing population and the demands on many of our services are only increasing each year, but by the end of the decade we’ll have less than half what we used to have to spend on services.
“We’ve already agreed £152.8million of heartbreaking cuts, but that is simply not enough to balance the books. Next week we’ll consider plans for an extra £14.7million of savings on top of those we’ve already agreed, but we’re still staring into a £37million black hole.
“We’ve responded to the hand we’ve been dealt by reviewing our services to see if we can change and improve them with less money; finding creative ways to be more efficient and, where that isn’t possible, doing everything possible to cause the least harm.”
As part of the drive to reduce its costs the council has already been forced to close some of its day centres, reduce grants to the voluntary sector, and re-organise its services to operate with fewer staff and less money. The council has also reduced or removed the subsidy from some of its chargeable services such as community centres; skip permits; garden and bulky waste collections; Ealing Summer Festivals events; day-care provision; parking permits; and some leisure services. Recycling and refuse will be collected on alternate weeks next year to increase recycling and reduce landfill costs. Contracts with third-party suppliers have also been renegotiated to cut costs and reviews of social care services have been carried out to see if services can be provided for less.
The proposals agreed at last night’s cabinet meeting include:
- Saving around £3.5million by developing alternative care options, such as the Shared Lives programme which seeks to place adults with learning disabilities in family homes. This is to lessen the need for more expensive residential care and promote self-care where appropriate to reduce the overall demand on adult services.
- Saving around £2.25million through renegotiating social care contracts and using online systems to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of care placements.
- Seeking more foster carers for looked-after children through the Brighter Futures programme, which is expected to save around £1million.
- Saving around £400,000 through reviewing and restructuring Youth and Connexions services.
- Improving efficiency at the reuse and recycling centres in Acton and Greenford and increasing uptake of commercial waste disposal contracts to save around £400,000.
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance, performance and customer services, said: “I can speak for all of my colleagues on the cabinet when I say we have spent months deliberating these decisions. The scale of the cuts being forced on us will mean that some services will need to stop or change. Residents are going to notice a difference, there’s no getting away from it.
“Despite the government cuts we are absolutely determined to continue to deliver the things we know really matter to local people. We are doing everything possible to attract more businesses into the borough, creating new jobs and to increase our income from business rates. We will drive forward our ambitious plans to regenerate the area and secure major transport improvements; ensure more decent and affordable homes are built; and push for the best healthcare services for our residents.”
The budget reduction proposals agreed by the cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday, 24 November are detailed in the cabinet reports on the council’s website.
All cabinet decisions are subject to call in for a period of five working days from the date of publication of the minutes of the meeting.