Editorial on Southwark Council’s Budget: Trying to keep us warm with an increasingly threadbare blanket

(03 March, 2016) Editorials

Savings of 50% have been achieved in youth services, with only a 10% reduction in front line services - this is an impressive statistic. But of course, 10% is still a large cutback.

8116The council's offices on Tooley Street

There are always going to be winners and losers in budgets – and with the ever decreasing circles that local councils have to tread in terms of central government funding, the winners are likely be few and far between this time around.

Having said that, the Labour council’s budget proposals, set out at Full Council this week, have tried their best to provide a blanket to cover all those needy services, even if it becomes increasingly threadbare as funding cuts tear holes. Savings of 50% have been achieved in youth services, with only a 10% reduction in front line services – this is an impressive statistic. But of course, 10% is still a large cutback in terms of services offered, and you also have to question how sustainable the increased productivity is – how far can you push departments before they really start to creak under the strain?

The other big debate of the night was over environmental services, and whilst the Lib Dems were instrumental in pushing recycling during their coalition years with the Tories in Southwark, it has to be said that it is the current administration that has overseen a transformation in street cleaning. The days of waking up to streets full of rubbish are now happily consigned to the past, so the proposal – in fact scrapped after the debate – to ditch overnight street cleaning, shows how desperate the beancounters are to make the figures add up. This is not a policy that Labour Southwark would have put forward happily.

Central government insists local authorities still retain handsome reserves and are guilty of shocking inefficiencies – and like any large organisation, this may have some truth to it. But at some point – in our view a point that has possibly already been passed – the government must accept that cuts will also have a damaging effect on local authorities’ abilities to provide essential services. And it’s the really needy who will suffer the most.

 

Read more: The budget, the cuts and the tax rises behind it all /news/council-tax-hike-confirmed-as-southwark-council-prepares-for-deep-cuts/

Read more: How the cuts will affect Southwark’s youth services /news/budget-2016/

Read more: How the cuts will affect Southwark’s environmental services /news/budget-2016-residents-should-prepare-to-see-a-little-for-litter-around-southwark/

 

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