Last night, Hackney Council set the Budget for 2011/12. The cuts in Hackney are among the deepest anywhere in the country, with £44m being taken out of our budget for the year ahead.
As we’ve said before on this blog, Hackney can’t escape the impact of the Government’s decisions, but the budget put forward by Hackney’s Labour Mayor, Cabinet and councillors shows our determination and commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.
The Budget protects frontline services in our borough. There will be no raising of eligibility criteria for homecare for the elderly, there will be no library closures, no closure of children’s centres or youth facilities, no reduction in the cleanliness of our streets or many of the other services on which residents in Hackney depend.
One of the biggest impact of the cuts has been the Government’s removal of the ‘area based grant’ which was money that more deprived areas received to help tackle the high level of social need. This money was directed through Team Hackney – our strategic partnership. However, the Council has found £3m to contribute to maintaining some of these services that would have otherwise gone completely – in particular around youth crime intervention and domestic violence support.
A lot of this has been possible due to Hackney Council having managed its finances well over the past few years. In previous years, through efficiency savings we have been able to invest in front line services. In identifying savings this year – whilst facing a massive cut to our spending – the priority was to drive out further back office efficiencies, and improve ways of working.
There were attempts during last night’s Budget meeting to disrupt the proceedings, but we managed to hold the meeting in public, so those who wished to, could listen to the Budget debate.
Hackney Labour has been very clear about our opposition to these cuts – they are imposed by Central Government and are an ideological attack on services and the communities we represent. But we’ve also been clear that we have to defend residents and services from the Government’s onslaught.
There were calls last night for us to refuse to set a Budget and charges that we’re guilty of ‘implementing Tory cuts’ – setting a Budget is a legal requirement and these accusations help the Government to localise the blame for cuts on councils.
As the Mayor set out last night – if we hadn’t set a Budget for Hackney, then we would be using residents as a weapon against the Government. There would be an immediate shut down of services – nurseries would close, meals on wheels would stop, libraries and leisure centres would close. This would be playing politics with people’s jobs and lives.
Next year we face further reductions in our grant funding. None of us became Labour councillors to want to make cuts. But in making decisions we will do everything we can to make sure that the impact of the cuts made by this Tory Government are minimised. We will be applying our Labour values to every decision we make – and will work relentlessly to protect those we came into politics to fight for and represent.
We want to hear from you – we want to know from residents in our ward what the most important services are and what needs to be maintained and protected. Also we urge you to join us in our campaign against the Government cuts – we’ll be out this Saturday in our ward so please do come and talk to us.