BY TOBY PORTER
Council tax is set to rise by 4.99 per cent as town hall officials warn of future challenges after a series of funding cuts.
More than £9.27million has been cut from the budget in order to balance the books, said Lewisham council.
The budget will see £1.6million stripped from children’s services, a further £2.8million of cuts to the community services budget, £2.8million from the customer services budget and £766,000 to be cut from resources and regeneration.
At the council meeting, Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan called the council tax hike regressive and blamed the Government’s austerity measures for the reduction in funding.
He said: “This is a budget I wish I didn’t have to bring to the council. This budget is set against almost a decade of Conservative government.
As each year that passes the impact of austerity is felt more deeply than ever before. In real terms local authority spending from 2010 to today has been cut in half.
“By 2020, London councils will have lost 63 per cent of their funding and even though Lewisham is one of the more deprived parts of the country the Government is committed to continuing to cut the money that we can spend on services for our residents.
“We’ve had to reduce some services that we know in the long-term will cause us more problems and create more social issues.
“The pressures on adult and children services remain acute and Lewisham has the second fastest growing population in London which adds more pressures which are uniquely distinct to our borough.
“There will be more difficult decisions to make, and on current projections for next year, we will be asked to find £11.5million on top of all that is to come out of Lewisham services.
“We resolved to exempt care leavers from council tax and an increase in council tax surcharges on those who own empty properties.
“In order to balance the budget we are using council tax increases, £5million new homes bonus and we will have to plug the gap of £2.5million which will come out the council’s reserves.
“There is no sign at all from Government in any let up from funding. In fact, when we look to the years ahead we do so with grave concern.
“The Tory party are ideologically driven to continuing their assault on the most vulnerable which hits Lewisham hard.
Lewisham council has lost more than 1,000 employees since 2011 and between 2016 and 2017, 75 employees were made redundant.
Andy Prendergast, GMB union representative for Lewisham council workers, said: “Across the country and London boroughs we are feeling the real effects of austerity.
“Councils can’t deliver services and Lewisham has been particularly hard-hit.
“With regards to redundancies we take each one on a case by case basis but we won’t shy away from action to protect jobs and services where our members support such steps.”