As a direct result of cuts to funding from central government, the council has to make at least £70 million worth of savings over the next three years.
On Wednesday, February 9, the council’s cabinet will seek to agree proposals to make the largest budget cuts in the council’s history. The proposals set out how the council plans to make these savings, but Mayor Lutfur Rahman has already made it his priority to protect services that provide vital support to vulnerable groups.
As part of this, the proposals will mean no children’s centres in the borough will close.
We are making savings rather than sweeping cuts to services by working smarter and more efficiently to make sure the services that people rely on – Idea Stores, children’s centres, recycling collection and others – continue to be there for residents.
The proposals are designed to streamline management – where more than £9m of savings are planned, offering more efficient services, without leading to residents seeing any actual change to services.
In order to continue to deliver services, however, the council-wide savings proposals will mean cuts to staff. In total, around 500 posts are expected to be lost this year most of which will be made by not filling vacancies or by voluntary redundancy.
Read what the cuts will mean to you, or view the agenda and proposals for the cabinet meeting to be held on Wednesday, February 9 for more details.
If agreed by cabinet, the proposals will go to a meeting of the full council on February 23 for consideration and agreement.
Budget Congress and focus groups
We have spoken with members of the public to find out their thoughts about how the proposed cuts in services will affect them.
Four focus groups were held in January around the borough, where people talked about who might be hardest hit by the cuts and their fears for local services, as well as looking at how local people and public sector organisations could better work together to support the most vulnerable.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman also hosted the second Budget Congress, which brought together residents, school governors and other community leaders together with senior officers and chief executives from the council, NHS Tower Hamlets, police and other key partners.
Discussions focussed on the impact of welfare cuts on residents and organisations, and identified issues which the council will need to keep in mind when setting its budget plans.
What the cuts will mean to you
- Every children’s centre will remain open. Savings to be made from management rather than closures. Nearly £3m worth of savings will be made by streamlining the management of the centres and other early years services to ensure under-fives and their families can continue to receive the support they currently benefit from.
- Out-of-school hours activities remain available for every child. Structured after-school childcare to be prioritised for working parents though. After school childcare for three- to 11-year-olds will be moved from the junior youth service to schools. All children will still be able to access out-of-school hours learning, but structured childcare will be provided for working parents only – many of whom are unavailable to care for children in the hours immediately after school.
- Management of the play sites at Bartlett Park and Whitehorse Road to be contracted out, but sites will remain staffed.
- Saving up to £9m a year by closing council offices at Anchorage House.
- External providers will be used to ensure homecare services are free for residents throughout 2011. Tower Hamlets is the only local authority in the country to do so. The council’s homecare service is proposing to save £3.7m by reorganising resources and continuing to use external providers to deliver long-term care, focusing its in-house service on helping users become more independent.
- Some changes to parking charges to ensure they are consistent across the whole borough but charges such as residents parking permits, visitor Scratch cards and short stay parking, frozen at 2010/11 levels.
- Charges will be introduced for all pest control services delivered to private properties.
- No reductions to concessions at leisure centres and no increases above the rate of inflation in ‘on the door’ pay and play charges for sports and leisure facilities.
- Small increase for health suite session annual charge (£3.40 to £3.75 per year) and annual adult play and pay fee (from £2.80p to £5 per year).
- No increases above rate of inflation for hire of premises run by the arts and events team, eg Brady Arts and Community Centre.
- Fees and charges remain the same for street and market traders for 2011/12 for the third successive year.
Equality Impact Assessments
We have Equality Impact Assessments to enable us to understand the impact the savings proposals may have on equality of different sections of our community.
- Papers for cabinet meeting, February 9
- Budget 2011-12 document pack
- Equality impact assessments for the proposed budget
- Moral duty to make cuts fair, East End Life, February 7
- What council cuts will mean to you, East End Life, February 7