Another Conservative Council budget, more horrific cuts to vital public services. In its 2017/18 Budget to be debated tonight (Wednesday 1st March), Westminster council has to find a further £46.175 million this year (£35.446m budget cuts and £10.7299m new cost pressures) from cuts and new sources of income, despite years of the Tory Government’s biting austerity.
By instead investing this year’s £5.1m budget underspend in projects that are both socially beneficial and that will save or earn the council money in the future, as well as cutting wasteful spending on temporary and agency staff, the Westminster Reporter, private health care and the Lord Mayor’s second luxury car amongst other items, Labour’s approach could help prevent the worst damage of the Tory cuts. Labour would invest in new approaches in adult social care to help residents and cut long-term costs, support our youth clubs and reverse some of the damaging cuts to our children’s centres.
Labour Group Leader Adam Hug said “Labour are calling on Westminster to do much more to lessen the devastating impact of their Government’s cuts to public services. Through cutting waste and investing unspent money rather having it sit in the bank, the council could do much more to support our young people, vulnerable adults and the homeless”.
- The Council’s planned Council Tax rise (1.90% on Council Tax and 2% Adult Social Care Precept) will raise less than £2million towards the cuts target
- Labour councillors receive a limited amount of officer support to ensure that their proposals are accurate and deliverable. There would be clearly greater scope for re-prioritising funding and finding new revenue sources to further reduce the cuts under a Labour administration budget, as shown by tri-borough colleagues in Hammersmith and Fulham.
- Some of the key Tory cuts include over £5 million in ‘savings’ from Children’s Services (over £3.1 million cut from Early Help inc Childrens Centres and almost £600k from specialist services), Adult Social Care is facing net £2.7million cut (despite costs rising by over £5.7 million as our population ages), £880,000 to be taken from the Rough Sleeping and Supported Housing budgets and the £750,000 cuts to libraries.
- The Labour amendment to the Council budget is enclosed below:
Labour Budget Amendment
To be moved by Councillor Adam Hug and seconded by Councillor David Boothroyd:
That a new Cabinet Recommendation be added to (1.1) reading:
‘that the £5.1 million proposed addition to the general fund balance set out in Schedule 6 (Appendix A to the Cabinet report) be instead used to provide:
- An additional investment in the purchase of temporary accommodation of £2.5 million
- An additional contribution to the Young Westminster Foundation of £600,000
- An additional investment of £2 million in further adult social care transformation’
And that the Cabinet Recommendations (1.1) be amended so that after ‘that the cash limited budgets for each service with overall net expenditure for 2017/18 of £173,850k as set out in Schedule 3 of Appendix A to the Cabinet Report) be approved’ the following is inserted:
‘with the changes as follows. An increase to the proposed figures for 2017/18 for the Adult Social Care Budget of £645,000, an increase to the Children’s Early Help Budget of £500,000’
This will be funded in the following ways:
- New income from additional investment funding at a net figure for 2017/18 of £24,000
- Savings from closing the senior staff private health care scheme to new entrants to generate in 2017/18 £31,000
- The introduction of a cap on temporary and agency staff expenditure at an initial level of £13 million over a 12 month rolling year, facilitated through the introduction of a Vacancy Board to vet all temporary staffing requests. Introduced by start Q2 2017/18 this would generate savings of £828,000
- Savings from non-revenue generating expenditure by the Policy, Performance and Communications Directorate of £207,000 This should include:
- ensuring that the Westminster Reporter is at minimum fully revenue neutral through increased advertising or by otherwise scrapping it outright. This will generate savings of £167,000
- An additional reduction in staffing or running costs of the department of £40,000
- Savings from a review the department of the total spending in the Chief of Staff’s area totalling £133,000 This should include:
- Further Lord Mayor’s office reforms of £25,000
- Ending the catering budget for members events £20,000
- Scrapping payments to deputy cabinet members £48,000 and the Members Allowances Scheme be amended accordingly
- An additional reduction in staffing or running costs of the department in addition to those listed above £40,000
- Utilising the £5.1m proposed addition to general fund balances will reduce the total funds available to the capital programme therefore the savings above will also fund increased borrowing costs of £78,000.