Services for children and young people and those with disabilities are at risk in the latest round of budget cuts proposed by Lewisham council.
The plans include cutting the budget for youth centres and ending funding for playgroups and are being scrutinised by a series of council committees that end on November 12.
Councillor Pauline Morrison, the chair of the first committee held on October 23, opened proceedings with an apology for the extent of the cuts to children and youth services.
Morrison, the Labour councillor for Crofton Park, later told Eastlondonlines: “Unfortunately the figure of cuts that we are looking for means that these services cannot escape making reductions.”
“In the past we have been able to protect the frontline services but now there are minimal back-office staff and services left.”
Under the proposals, the total cuts to services for children and young people will total £8.2m. A grant aimed at helping families with children under five and children identified as vulnerable will be reduced by £1.3m, while youth services, such as youth clubs and help for pregnant teens, will be cut by £1m.
The wider plans will see a spending reduction of £28.3m over the next three years across all council operations and services.
Despite widespread concern, Chris Mains, Liberal Democrat councillor for Blackheath and vice chair of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee believes that the cuts will have a positive impact.
He said: “Youth services have traditionally been youth clubs with three or four youth workers sitting around talking to three or four young people. They need to invest in a much more innovative and modern service that meet the needs of young people.”
“I think some of the plans that are coming forward are quite exciting. Whilst it’s being done in the name of a cut it’s quite an exciting service development.”
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “We are doing everything we can to protect the things people value most, but the financial situation we face is very serious.”
“The Government’s squeeze on public spending means we will inevitably face some very difficult decisions over the coming months.”
However, Tony Reay, chairman of Lewisham Trades Union Council, believes that the council’s approach to tackling a reduction in Government funding is wrong.
He said: “I don’t think there should be any cuts, especially to services. Do we have to pay council chief execs £250,000 a year?”
“The Government are passing down these cuts to the council but there’s no dialogue between the council and constituents. That’s not the way.”
The cuts will be finalised in January once the council know exactly how much money they will receive from the Government over 2013-16.
[callout] Key proposals
- Downsizing community safety teams in charge of dealing with victims of domestic abuse, hate crimes and sexual offences to save £270,000.
- Cutting road sweeping from once a week to a minimum of once a month, a measure that the council have said could lead to street cleanliness being ‘significantly reduced’.
- Reducing funding for home based alcohol and drug rehabilitation by £207,000.
- A £10 charge for blue badge parking permits.
- Cutting a grant aimed at helping vulnerable children. [/callout]