Council Tax Frozen but wrong choices

by Nigel Bakhai on 27 February, 2013

This month’s council meeting sets the budget and council tax for Ealing in 2013/14. The good news for residents is that council tax is frozen again. For the third year running,  unlike our counterparts in the Tories, the Lib Dem council group has submitted an alternative budget where we have identified savings that can be made in some areas and extra spending on our priorities.

The main changes we proposed were to cancel some of the council’s pet projects like the new Southall car park, 20% reductions in councillors’ allowances as well as cuts in salaries for council staff earning over £75,000. With this extra money, we would invest an extra £1 million in repairing potholes in our roads and improving pavements across the borough as well as saving two day centres for people with learning disabilities, Learning Curve and Stirling Road in Acton, that the council is planning to close. We would also withhold money from Enterprise for their ongoing poor performance in managing the recycling and refuse contract since April last year that we would use to reinvest in improving recycling rates.

The budget report states that the council will make every effort to protect the elderly, disabled, children and young people who are the most vulnerable residents of the borough. Those are fine sentiments but the council’s plans to close two centres that provide training and employment opportunities for people with learning disabilities shows that in truth Ealing Labour Party’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in their decision-making is just an illusion. The Liberal Democrat budget amendment demonstrates that the money can be found to save these two centres and the most vulnerable members of our society can be protected from the cuts if there is the political will. The Council Leader told the council meeting that the only way to save these two day centres would be to impact the social care service offering to customers classified as having “substantial” or “critical” needs. The Lib Dem budget provides fully costed proposals to show that just isn’t true.

Unfortunately both the Labour and Conservative council groups voted against our budget amendment so it will not become a reality.

For your information, here is a copy of our amendment.

“Council agrees to the following in relation to this year’s Capital and Revenue budgets and amends the recommendations accordingly:

Revenue   alterations  
Saving by not   borrowing for car park & streetscape project Saving of £530,000
Loss of income   from car park customers Cost of £150,000
Cost of not   closing the Stirling Road & the Learning Curve Day centres Cost of £683,000
Cost of   cancelling the Greenford and Southall hubs Cost of £146,000
Councillors’   allowance reduction (Basic + SRA) Saving of £212,000
Reduction in   staff salaries by 10% of those on or over £75,000 Saving of £250,000
Additional   reduction in Chief Executive Projects budget Saving of £40,000
Reduction in   Trade union facilities budget Saving of £50,000
Cost of extra   spending on pavements and highways Cost of £103,000
Overall change Net zero

 

Capital   alterations  
Cancelling the Southall Car Parking project * Saving   of £5,300,000
Net change in cancelling the Greenford and Southall hubs * Cost   of £1,460,000
Additional capital for spendiing on highways and pavements Cost   of £1,030,000
Overall change Saving   circa £2,800,000

* These two items are items that are to be funded from a 2012/13 underspend.

One off alterations
Finance withheld from Enterprise (for poor performance) to be   spent on a future 12 month initiative to boost recycling rates in Ealing   (above the already agreed plan funded by central government)

Council notes this will help vulnerable residents, improve our road and paving network whilst increasing the recycling rates across Ealing.”

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