Lewisham council sets out second round of budget cuts proposals
Lewisham Council is set to consider the next round of its budget review, with proposals to transform the way some frontline services are delivered, to make efficiencies and contribute towards the £40m gap in its budget.
With the Council continuing to do everything it can to support residents and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, and despite prudent financial management, the Council is still being forced to confront a huge budget gap as a result of a decade of government cuts and underfunding, which has seen the Council’s budget cut by nearly half.
Last month, the Council began a tough budget review with ideas on how to deliver the £40m cuts needed over the next three years. A second round of cuts will now be considered, with proposals setting out a further £13m of cuts, bringing the total cuts for next year to £28 million.
Lewisham is not alone in facing this challenge: across the country, local government now faces a £4bn funding gap in 2021 to keep services running at today’s levels.
The proposals, which will be discussed by the Healthier Communities Select Committee on 13 January, aim to protect frontline services as much as possible. Over the next three years, the majority of cuts will be delivered by continuing to transform the way Council services work. This will include a review of adult social care that seeks to fundamentally change how services are delivered, to support people to remain independent for longer.
The proposals include improved joint working with public service partners and reviews into how some services operate, including libraries, street cleansing, housing needs and the Council’s legal and governance services.
Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham said:
“The last year has highlighted how critical the services councils provide are. I’m proud of the way the Council has adapted to support residents during this extremely difficult time. From the day-to-day services we all use, such as waste collections and our parks and green spaces, to vital support for our most vulnerable residents, councils are at the heart of our daily lives.
“After a decade of austerity and ever-increasing demand for our services, local government is facing some incredibly difficult decisions in order to set a legal, balanced budget. We have been working with Council officers to carefully consider options that prioritise protecting frontline services by transforming the way the Council works.
“The proposals include a number of strategic reviews, to help us identify cuts and work more efficiently. However, we’re running out of options and will need to make decisions that impact the services we provide. None of us want to do that, but where we have to we will careful consider measures to mitigate the impact on the users of those services.
“As we continue to face the unprecedented challenge presented by the pandemic, we urgently need the Government to rethink its approach to funding for local authorities, to address the persistent underfunding of public services and acknowledge the cuts we are being forced to make, at a time when residents need us the most.”
Cllr Amanda De Ryk, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources said:
“Council budgets are under the most intense pressure. Despite careful financial management, years of underfunding from Central Government mean we’re running out of ways to find the savings being demanded of us.
“With so much uncertainty around long term funding, we are looking right across the Council to make decisions that provide sustainable, long term savings. We are challenging ourselves to make our services more efficient, as well as making difficult decisions where we are forced to.
“Protecting frontline services and tackling inequalities will always be our priority. However, we must be clear that the financial situation we have been forced into will affect the services we provide on behalf of our residents. We don’t think that’s fair, and we will continue to make Lewisham’s voice heard, and send a clear signal to the Government that enough is enough – we urgently need a review of funding for local authorities.”