BROMLEY: Council approves more than 150 budget cuts totalling £33m

10:11pm Monday 28th February 2011

By Michael Purton

BROMLEY Council has approved a list of more than 150 budget cuts totalling £33m in front of a packed public gallery at the Civic Centre tonight.

Councillors voted to approve the draft budget for the next year and additional savings for 2012/13, with just three councillors, who are Labour members, voting against the proposals.

This follows the council discovering its funding from central government will be reduced by at least £33m over the next two years.

Councillor Stephen Carr, leader of the Conservative council, told the chamber the cuts had been made necessary by the “ineptitude” of the previous Labour central government.

He said: “We tonight and certainly over the next year or two are going to have to make some very difficult and unpalatable decisions to correct the blunders of 13 years of Labour.”

Protesters and the borough’s Labour group had called on the council to use some of its £51.9m reserves to save services facing the axe.

However, Cllr Carr told the chamber: “We will not be spending money out of the council’s reserves to support ongoing revenue funding.”

He added: “It would be totally irresponsible to do anything else. The country is in the position it is in today because of the economics of the mad house, or should I say the economics of Labour.

“This administration will not take that sort of approach with this borough’s wellbeing.”

Councillors also voted to freeze council tax.

The savings include:

- Stopping the in-house homecare provision – saving £400,000 in 2011-2012 and £600,000 in 2012-13.

- Reducing the funding to sheltered housing – saving £500,000 in 2011-2012 and £800,000 in 2012-2013.

- Ending grants to poor families for school uniforms and shoes – to save £100,000 in the 2011-2012 and £200,000 in 2012-2013.

- Axing school crossing patrols – saving £0 in 2011-2012 and £233,000 in 2012-13.

- Slashing the number of councillors from 60 to 40 – change cannot be brought in until election in 2014 so no savings for years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013.

- Having just three children and family centres across the borough rather than the 23 originally planned – saving £600,000 in 2011-2012 and £2.8m in 2012-13.

- Closing either Penge or Anerley library – saving £90,000 in 2012-2013.

- Closing park toilets, reducing grants to sports clubs, reducing allotment rents, stopping park events and campaigns and reducing support to Park Friends – saving £10,000 in 2011-2012 and £53,000 in 2012-2013.

- Introducing car parking charges at countryside sites – saving £30,000 in 2011-2012 and £50,000 in 2012-2013.

- Cllr Carr says there will also be staff redundancies at the council.

Extra funding

The budget does include an additional £900,000 to support adults with learning difficulties and £600,000 for adults with physical disabilities.

An extra £1.7m has also been set out for transporting children with special education needs and protecting children at risk.

Criticism

During the meeting, the leader of the Bromley Labour group, Councillor John Getgood, said the cuts were too severe.

He told the chamber: “We accept cuts have to be made but not with this severity.”

Cllr Getgood said the council should use money from its reserves to save services.

He said: “We’re not proposing a complete run down of reserves but a considered use, during the four year cycle, of up to £12m or £13m.”

Cllr Getgood also said the council should increase council tax by one per cent to raise £1.3m to avoid cuts.

He proposed the council turn down 13 of the planned savings, including the reduction in funding for pupil clothing and footwear, and the axing of school crossing patrols.

Member of the public Adele Titford also addressed the councillors during the meeting to voice her opposition to ending funding for crossing patrols.

The 48-year-old mum aimed a question at Councillor Colin Smith, the portfolio holder for the environment, who has said the council is not scrapping the patrols but looking at alternative ways of providing them, such as through volunteers.

Mrs Titford, of Hayesford Park in Bromley, asked: “How many volunteers will the council have to recruit, train and insure before the £233,000 you want to save is reached?

“And do you still plan to axe the lollipop people even if any net saving is far less than the £233,000 you’re aiming to save?”

Cllr Smith said the council had made no firm decisions on the alternatives yet and that “there are no certainties at this stage”.

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