Presented by Genevieve Macklin, Head of Housing.
She explained that the challenge Lewisham faces is that the Council has to reduce its spending by a considerable amount; £1 in every £3. This is driven by central Government reducing its grants within Lewisham and every other local authority across England.
In Lewisham, savings of £85 million needs to be found over the next 3 years.
She explained that this was not a formal consultation but a means to get a conversation started and gain initial feedback on the subject and what lies ahead.
The purpose of the presentation was to explain:
• How the Council currently spends its money
• Where that money comes from
• How our income is being cut
• How and when decisions will be made
• How you can influence those decisions
See appendix 2 for presentation details.
Feedback cards were completed and handed in.
To give your views or have a go on the online budget simulator go to www.lewisham.gov.uk/bigbudgetchallenge
This will be open until 22 October 2014. Consultation and scrutiny will follow and the Council will set the new budget on 25 February 2015.
Summary of questions/ comments raised:
Q. Is it fair to say that because the cut is so big (£85 million) a cut would have to come from Children and Adult Social Care?
A. It is fair enough to say that if 50% of the net budget goes to Children and Adult Social care and you didn’t reduce spending within these services, then you would have to take significantly more from the other remaining services.
A resident commented on the Barnet Graph of Gloom, a PowerPoint slide showing that within 20 years, unless things change dramatically, the north London council will be unable to provide any services except adult social care and children's services. No libraries, no parks, no leisure centre’s – not even bin collections. He fears that the reduced spending will continue further than 3 years, irrelevant of what government is in place.
Q. On a positive note, if residents in the borough are increasing, wont they be contributing to Lewisham’s income?
A. Yes, certainly through things like council tax. In terms of the way the government grant funding settlement works there may be a bigger contribution based on increased residents, however it will probably never match in the way the current grant is distributed.
Q. Is Lewisham Council looking at sharing services across other borough’s to reduce spending?
A. Yes they have been proactive on this, already our IT and finance services are shared and have saved money. (Borough’s include Bromley, Croydon and Greenwich) .We are looking at other services, eg Housing and staff reduction as well. Plus services have been put on line to reduce costs . 600 staff members have already been cut.
Q. Are Lewisham’s assets being looked at?
A . Lewisham has been proactively looking at its assets, including looking at selling, but also working on making better use of its assets and generating income for a more long term approach, eg The Town Hall has been cleared and is now used to let out (room hire) to community groups and organisations.
Cllr Currran acknowledged that this was a painful process. He added that the Sydenham Councillor’s feel very strongly that there should be more resources to pay for services to maintain a decent civil society that we should all be entitled to.