|Ealing's Budget Cuts - Conservative Reaction|
Tory leader Jason Stacey criticises decisions made by Labour's ruling administration
At the Council meeting on the 1st March which met to set the council’s budget for 2011/12, my Conservative colleagues and I did not support the Labour budget. The budget that has been passed is not a budget for residents, but rather the product of council officers merged in with political decisions made for the benefit of internal Labour Group politics.
In recent months the Labour administration have sought to convey the view that none of the cuts in local public services are their fault, but rather the fault of the national Coalition Government who are unfairly cutting grants to local government. There is no doubt that this has been a tough budget year but Labour have deliberately set out to inflate the level of cuts needed in order to be able to disguise their own spending commitments.
It has been said by Labour that they are facing cuts of £66 million, yet £13 million of these cuts is actually Labour’s own decision to cut local services and spend the money elsewhere. That still leaves £53 million which sounds a lot but when put in context that the Conservative administration from 2006-10 managed to make efficiency savings of £61 million, it shows it certainly can be done without resorting to some of the savage cuts that have now been approved.
The budget that was passed on the 1st March will mean half of our envirocrime officers going; our entire street cleaning monitoring team being sacked; the number of graffiti teams operating in the borough going down; park rangers being drastically reduced and road and footpath investment significantly reduced. The most vulnerable in our borough have been hardest hit with day centres like the Albert Dane Centre for people with physical disabilities being closed or the LINKS Project for people with mental health issues being terminated.
Labour wielded the axe on all these services claiming that they had no choice, yet at the same time announced a whole raft of spending measures. These Labour ‘priorities’ included:
• £5.5 million to build a new car park in Southall – just a stones throw away from an existing car park which is not yet fully used.
Virtually none of the 98 senior managers in Ealing Council will be losing their jobs, yet hundreds on the front line will be facing this prospect in the coming weeks. Such a reckless and cavalier attitude to our public services is the main reason why the Conservative Group could not support this budget.
We do however, welcome the Government grant of £3.1 million to enable the Council Tax to be frozen for the third year, following the two year freeze under the previous Conservative administration, which will help hard pressed families in the borough during this challenging economic time.