The cuts have formed the backbone to much of the coverage on ELL throughout the past six months and have been at in the forefront of most people’s minds across the boroughs for the same period. We have covered cuts protests in the four boroughs as well as the big anti-cuts demonstration.
We have covered Libraries across the boroughs, childcare centres and benefits, and we have looked at the impact on classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding. Previously we have the also looked at arts funding and cuts to services for the unemployed across the area.
From this week the cuts will start to bite as councils start the new accounting year with seriously reduced budgets.
Tower Hamlets has the biggest budget cut losing £56 million in 2011/2012 and a cumulative total of £72 million over the next three years. However Tower Hamlets is also sitting on reserves of £95 million that they can use to offset cuts. Next up is Hackney with cuts of £44 million in 2011/2012 and a cumulative total of £80 million over the next four years. Lewisham will suffer a £33.4 million cut over the year and a cumulative cut of £88 million over four year. Croydon manages best losing a relatively modest £22.7 Million this year adding up to £70 million over the next three years.
Lewisham have already decided to try and ameliorate the cut in funding by raising council tax and freezing salaries so that cuts to services will add up to a slightly less awesome £26.8 million.
Averaged out these cuts could mean a loss, per person across the four boroughs in 2011/2012 of: Croydon: £66.41, Lewisham: £103.68 Hackney: £209.8, Tower Hamlets: £260.10 (not taking their reserves into account).
Lewisham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Croydon are four boroughs that are going to be particularly hard hit by council grant cuts from the government and council meetings to announce these reductions were met with protest in many of the boroughs. In November, Lewisham residents staged a particularly vehement protest, with a smaller protest present in March. There was also a protest at a budget meeting in Hackney last month.
There were also specific protests about healthcare in Tower Hamlets, as residents spoke out about the Health and Social Care Bill.
Of course these are just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next few months we will start to see jobs disappear and more people will be hunting for jobs that will be harder to find. On top of that the government’s housing benefit cuts will start to bite. Unemployed families will find that the money that they are allocated to pay rent will no longer be enough. We can expect to see a sharp rise in the numbers of people homeless or looking for cheaper places to rent.
The housing benefit is something that we have covered several times on ELL, with the possible exodus of Hackney’s Haredi Jewish population, a particularly poignant example.
There were also reports that boroughs such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney could become “unaffordable”, while in October last year Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock predicted that the cuts to housing benefit provided “all the ingredients for a swiftly escalating housing crisis“. Residents from Tower Hamlets protested about the housing benefit cuts outside Downing Street in December.
There were worries from many quarters that the cuts will hit the youngest the hardest, with protests over cuts to the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which helped poorer 16 and 17-year-olds to stay in education. There were demonstrations in Hackney and east London students marched to Downing Street. Lewisham MP, Joan Ruddock, also spoke out against the EMA cuts and the detrimental effect it would have on young people in her constituency.
All four boroughs have staged protests since the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in October. Hackney campaigned against the cuts as a whole, with Lewisham residents taking a similar route.
What is obvious, is that there will be further unrest across the boroughs over the coming months, as these measures really start to take hold.