Lewisham’s Big Budget Challenge

big_budget

Your Labour Councillors have been working hard to get to grips with the magnitude of cuts that are coming to Lewisham. Away days, additional planning meetings and scrutiny has taken up the vast majority of political time over the last month since our last meeting. Our challenge is £1 in 3 has been cut by this Tory-Liberal government, meaning that Lewisham Council faces the challenge of not just cutting services, but fundamentally redesigning how we undertake our day-to-day business functions, as we cannot ‘trim’ or cut back office services further without current models collapsing. One of the big challenges is that currently we spend around fifty percent of our “free” budget on just 8,000 residents – those with highest need; and the narrative that we have to have with local residents going forward, some of whoms only visible interaction with the Council may be bin collection and street sweeping, will be to balance the needs and priorities and expectations of both, despite them being very different functions that we carry out.

Lewisham is the 16th most deprived Local Authority in England – we have large challenges in being able to create equality of opportunity, and these top-down cuts that have been proposed, upon an already externally recognised exceedingly lean Local Authority, with no regard to the additional challenges that we face. Sadly the option of not setting a balanced isn’t there, if we don’t account in the budget for every penny we plan to spend, Osbourne and his croonies will be able to inflict an unfair ‘salami sliced’ budget upon us, without regard to need or viability of services. One of the many difficulties we will have, will be communicating to the public why services are being cut when the economy is growing again, bearing in mind that not only is Lewisham Council a service provider, but also one of the big employers locally. The fundamental issue is we are experiencing an artificially created government recession in Local Government, driven by ideological beliefs, but lets be clear if we do secure a victory next may and return a Labour Government, the cheque book will not be flung open, but the difference between Labour and the rest, is that we do believe in the role of Local Government, we believe it is ok to spend on infrastructure, and we will develop a fairer way of distributing Local Government funding, based on needs of the population.

But this doesn’t mean that we can’t and shouldn’t fight back now against these Tory-Liberal led cuts, we as Labour activists need to be going out into our communities and telling residents that this isn’t the way a Labour Government would go about doing this, its unfair, unjust, partisan and ideological, and we the peoples of Great Britain do not agree this is the right way forward.

More information on what Labours LGA vision is for local government is available by visiting:

http://www.lgalabour.local.gov.uk

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