Cllr Stacey during his four year tenure as Leader of the Council was in the happy position of receiving generous levels of funding from the Labour government and so did not have to face the unprecedented cuts to the Council’s budget that we are now facing or the difficult decisions we have to make.
We are facing 25 to 40 % cuts in our government grant over the next three years – on the lower figure this will mean £53m cuts to our budget, an unprecedented reduction of a quarter of our spending from 2011; we are already dealing with a £1.8m in year budget cut as a result of the coalition government’s emergency budget that also snatched away a further £3.5m in funding that we as a Council had earned.
First of all Cllr Bell tries to make the case that during the time of Cllr Stacey’s Conservative administration it was easy-peasy. The figures do not bear him out.
When Labour ran Ealing the Council (1994-2006), it enjoyed average annual increases in government grant of 5.4%, half a percent above the England average. RPI averaged 2.6% and CPI averaged 1.4%. In other words, Labour were getting increases in government grant at twice the level of inflation and still putting up Council tax by around 10% each year.
During the Conservatives’ regrettably short period in office Ealing’s grant plummeted to well below the England average and below any measure of inflation. In those four years the council made some £60 million of savings, rather more than the £53 million that Cllr Bell is talking about. So we can see that Cllr Stacey did not have it quite so easy.
Again in the next paragraph Cllr Bell has got his numbers totally wrong. If he looks at the council’s statement of accounts for last year he will see that the council spent over £1 billion on the revenue account. His £53 billion of savings is only 5% of total expenditure. He fails to point out that he has the freedom to increase certain charges that the council makes so much of his £53 million savings target will be made by price rises rather than dreaded “cuts”.
So Bell’s target is less than what Cllr Stacey already achieved and is only 5% of total expenditure. There are many residents who would say that whilst this will be a challenge it will be eminently achievable.