Westminster’s Labour Councillors have unveiled a £920,000 four point amendment to the Council’s budget which will rescue the Council’s Arts and Culture programme and improve front line services for young people and the environment. The four point plan proposes;
• Rescuing the Council’s Arts and Culture Programme from the axe at a cost of £150,000 in 2013/14. It would be an act of civic vandalism to axe Westminster’s entire Arts and Culture programme when Westminster’s economic future depends on the success of the creative arts and attracting more visitors to the West End to see and experience our world famous art and culture.
• Increasing gang activity work with vulnerable teenagers through additional specialist youth workers and additional diversionary activities. This would cost £250,000. After the tragic stabbing of a 16 year old in Lupus Street a few weeks ago and last week’s gun shots in Aylesford Street, we need to build on the work that is being undertaken by the Gangs Unit and we need to give them the resources to do the job.
• Increasing the number of Dog Wardens from 2 to 8 at a cost of £320,000. Anti-social behaviour by irresponsible dog owners is probably the single most annoying issue that many residents face. Two dog wardens tell residents that the Council is not serious about this. Action by a team of eight dog wardens would begin to send a serious message to those responsible.
• An additional 19 Street Sweepers at a cost of £200,000. It is an absolute disgrace that there has been a “marked increase in the levels of litter, detritus and flyposting deposits on Westminster streets”. According to the latest Audit report;
“There has been a marked deterioration in the levels of litter and detritus as measured by our independent surveyors. 10% of streets sampled were assessed as having litter evident, nearly 6% of streets were assessed as having unacceptable levels of detritus and 1.4% of streets were assessed as having unacceptable levels of Fly posting.”
In total this is additional proposed expenditure of £920,000.
To pay for this Labour would follow the advice of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Last December Mr Pickles published, “50 ways to save: Examples of sensible savings in local government”. The Council should follow his advice by making the following £920,000 of pain-free savings
First we would not replace the outgoing £180,000 a year Director of Communications. Or, at the very least we would share the position with tri-borough neighbours Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham Councils. This would be directly in line with Mr Pickles’ top recommendation “Share back office services: from planning to press, from HR to legal.”
Second, we would cut the amount spent on expensive agency staff from the current figure over £14 million a year by 400,000 a year. Number 27 on Mr Pickles’ list is “Cut spending on consultants and agency staff:”
Third, we would save over £85,000 a year by following Mr Pickles’ advice to “Cut spending on head hunters and expensive adverts” (Number 29)
Fourth, we would save over £40,000 a year taking Mr Pickles’ advice to “Reduce the number of publications and media monitoring” (Number 35)
Fifth, we would save £200,000 a year by scrapping the ‘Westminster Reporter’ which is directly in line with Mr Pickles’ recommendation to “Scrap the town hall Pravda: Local authority newspapers undermine an independent local press.” (Number 38)
Finally, we would cut the free food and drink at meetings for Councillors and save £15,000 a year by adopting Mr Pickles’ advice to “Stop providing free food and drink for meetings” (Number 39).
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“These savings of £920,000 will rescue the Council’s Arts programme and pay for much needed front-line service improvement. There is no need to axe the Council’s entire Arts and Culture programme and the Council has the opportunity tonight to step back from this proposed act of civic vandalism”.