Council Says It's 'On Target' For Spending Cuts

But there are warnings of even tougher times ahead

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Ealing Council says more than 90% of the savings needed to reach the target of £85million by April 2015 have been identified, but there are warnings that further cuts may still have to be made.

Councillors have discussed the latest budget update for this year which showed nearly three-quarters of savings needed had already been achieved.

In December the council will find out what its annual settlement from the government will be for the two years from April 2013.

At the same time the council will find out how much money it will be able to keep from the new business rates system being introduced next April

Councillor Julian Bell, leader of the council, said: “When we started this process I knew that the sheer scale and speed by which our funding was slashed would mean tough choices were unavoidable.

“I know that residents have also been experiencing tough times which is why we decided to freeze council tax again last year.

“Ealing had one of the worst government settlements in London in 2010 and so I’m awaiting with mounting trepidation the announcement in December confirming our future funding.

“Not knowing how much funding we will get through our main government grant or business rates is causing considerable uncertainty and only gives us a few months to adjust multi-million pound budgets. My fear is that under these complicated new funding systems our borough will lose out, which would mean local services would suffer.

“Considering the pressure the council’s finances have been under, I’m hoping that the people of Ealing will get a fairer settlement this time around.”

Among the measures used to drive down costs the council says it has improved efficiency, reduced the cost of some of its contracts, financed projects from money held in reserve and worked in partnership with other local authorities to jointly purchase some services.

To reduce its staffing costs the council says it is streamlining management structures and the amount being spent on senior management is being cut by 30%. To minimise compulsory redundancies the council has offered voluntary redundancy and reduced working hours and put in place restrictions on recruitment to vacant posts and always seeks to redeploy staff under threat of redundancy to vacant posts.

With £5million of budget reductions still to be identified, the council is also seeking to realise £1million of savings by changing the terms and conditions of its staff. Other proposals to reach the overall saving target will be discussed with senior councillors as part of the council budget review process and will be considered by the council’s cabinet in November.

Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance and performance said: “We took decisive action to plan for the cuts, looking at every line of our budget to ensure that we didn’t slash and slice indiscriminately.

“We have no choice but to ensure that the council acts responsibly and spends within its budgets. By planning properly we have been able to deliver these cuts as fairly as possible. We have gone a long way to delivering the savings that we have had to make but there is still some way to go to meet our target.

“The financial outlook is bleak and we are under no illusion that local government is likely to face even more challenges in the years ahead. Although this is most unwelcome and likely to cause even more pain for our residents, I know that our prudent and efficient financial management will help to ensure we face what is coming in as fair a way as possible. ”

28th October 2012