Cuts of £85 million will bring “severe suffering” to the borough, a top Lewisham councillor has warned following a council meeting last week.
Lewisham councillor Kevin Bonavia cautioned a mayor and cabinet meeting in light of government austerity measures that will see Lewisham lose a third of its budget, with £40 million of cuts this year alone.
There will be a public vote on the budget on February 25. Campaigners are expected to protest outside the meeting, calling for the council to reject the cuts.
Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock said: “If we do nothing, the risk is that we, or someone else, would be back here in the future making changes in a much less considered way. That’s the reality of the financial pressures that public services are facing.”
If the cuts are to go ahead, some projects in Lewisham will see losses in funding. The campaign to keep the borough’s Baby Cafes open is amongst one of the projects, even though the Councillor for Young People Paul Maslin assured residents that they have no plans to close any children’s centres. The Baby Cafes are currently meetings run by the council to provide support and advice to parents interested in breastfeeding.
Other cuts proposed include an end to the council’s Meals on Wheels contract, park keepers and a reduced programme running at Catford’s Broadway Theatre. The consequences of the cuts will result in an estimated 289 job losses.
Proposals to convert day centres into “community hubs” and reduce the council’s door-to-door service “frightened” by Nick O’Shea from Lewisham Mencap. He said: “I can’t think of a more expensive way to save £1 million a year.”
Bonavia said: “All residents of Lewisham are going to see a difference in the services that are provided and some of the most vulnerable residents are going to feel it.”