Ealing Council Warns Of Hard Times Ahead

£57million of cuts will have to be made over next three years

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Stark warnings about more cuts to Ealing Borough services have been made as the council has revealed a £57million budget shortfall.

The cabinet will meet next week (Tuesday 11 December) and discuss proposals to close the huge deficit which it must do by 2021. The gap is more than double Ealing’s total annual budget for children centres, libraries, street cleaning, rubbish and recycling collections combined.

If agreed, initial proposals will reduce the gap by £12.3million and over subsequent months more cuts will have to be indentified.

The council is blaming years of 'significant and sustained cuts' with the central government grant reduced by 64%; greater than the London and national average.  By 2021, this grant will disappear and services will have to be paid for through council tax, business rates, fees, charges and commercial income.

At the same time they say, demand is higher than it has ever been with £232,000 spent every day on adult social care alone. Along with other local authorities, the council is lobbying government for a sustainable funding solution for adult social care.

From, April, it's expected many fees and charges will change with CPZ permits prices proposed to rise. Other savings include moving the sexual health service online and there will be a new regional fostering and adoption service with neighbouring councils.

Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for finance and leisure, said, “The scale of the government cuts means that for every pound that the council used to receive in government grants, it now gets just 36p. Our budget gap can’t be closed by increasing council tax and making further efficiencies alone, especially with the additional pressures of the national social care crisis that continues to be unanswered by government.

“The age of austerity is still with us and we are responding by rethinking how we operate, focusing on prevention alongside making significant savings and increasing our fees and charges. We are also making a historical investment in the largest council house building programme in London. Unfortunately, the scale of the financial challenges we are facing means there will be tough decisions to consider in the new year.”

In a bid to try and soften the blow the council says it's doing its best to ensure the long-term sustainability of local public services, and point to £3.7million which has either been saved already, or will be saved, through better procurement and contract efficiencies, including libraries, parking and ICT.

The council says focusing on preventing problems such as homelessness, helping families stay together and supporting older people in their own homes for as long as possible will also help save vital funds. Cabinet will hear of plans to invest in delivering 2,500 new affordable homes, a key council commitment, and one of the ways that it hopes to reduce its significant bill for rehousing homeless families.

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said, “Like all London councils, Ealing is working hard to address the burdens of increased demand and funding cuts. These latest proposals address two of our biggest pressures; social care and homelessness. I am proud to announce that we are investing in genuinely affordable housing, our main council priority, and we are also seeing the benefits from our new ways of working with families and vulnerable adults. However, there is no escaping our very challenging financial situation.”

The December cabinet papers are available at www.ealing.gov.uk/committees

December 4 2018

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