In recent weeks, the tone of a number of council reports has highlighted the position that the council finds itself in with regard to its finances.
Direct quotes from council reports include “Since 2011/12, an accelerated rate of reduction in funding, at an unprecedented level, has resulted in the identification of savings being the dominant activity in the council’s financial planning process.
“This approach to budget setting is expected to continue for the medium term” and “most schools will face real-term reduction in funding in 2019/20” and “the current Adult Social Care operating model is unsustainable when set against rising demand in terms of both complexity and volume and real terms resource constraints.”
Austerity has caused huge damage to local government with devastating effects on key public services that protect the most defenceless in society such as children with disabilities, vulnerable older people and those who have found themselves at increased risk of homelessness, along with the services we all rely on, like clean streets, green spaces and children’s centres.
Local government budgets are at breaking point and there remains a significant budget gap over the next four years currently forecast to be £26million in 2022.
The budget proposals for 2019/20 have been published and include significant proposals for services for older people, school transport for children with disabilities, to library budgets and to waste collection.
Residents rightly ask why if the council’s income is increasing from new properties and increases in council tax, do these cuts need to be made. The answer is that historically, the council gained a large amount of its income from Government grant in addition to council tax and the withdrawal of this grant has forced the council to make these savings.
While Bexley Tory councillors state they don’t wish to make these cuts, they fail to explain why they support a Government that has ensured that local government has suffered larger budget cuts than any other department.
The next stage of this process for councillors will be a meeting to scrutinise the proposals on December 11, prior to further scrutiny of any revised proposals in the new year.
In the meantime, the council is asking residents for their views on a number of the proposals and I would urge residents to complete the consultation at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/
The Labour Group will be working with residents to understand the impact of these proposals and to scrutinise them at committee prior to the agreement of a final budget next March.