The scale of the cuts to Ealing Council’s budgets is unprecedented.
Over 30% of its controllable budget is being slashed by the Conservative led government over the next 3 years. This means £66m is being axed from our coffers with more to follow.
Put aside the fact that a large part of his “cuts” are growth items next year and that the council spends over £1 billion per annum so maybe 6.6% does not sound quite so horrible you have to agree that the council has a large challenge in front of it. I would suggest that the majority of individual decisions in this budget would have been made in the same way by a Conservative administration. In the last few days I have tried to draw out some of the areas of difference. I have dwelt rather on the detail. A huge point of difference has to be the overall strategic approach taken by Labour.
Labour have not had a strategy. They have merely reacted. As we saw yesterday they are not inclined to tackle the marked disparity between their own staff Ts and Cs and those generally enjoyed by the majority of residents in the borough. Surely such a change in funding was the obvious opportunity to change the council’s terms of trade with its own labour force?
There is no sign of fundamental service redesign in this budget. One of the biggest challenges facing the council is how to stop duplicating contacts with the same people, especially those that misbehave. The person who fly tips, gets involved in anti-social behaviour, noise nuisance, dog fouling, etc is often tackled many times over by different “silo-ed” council services, each with its own staff and databases that don’t readily talk to each other. Layer in local health services and police repeating the same interactions and you can immediately see how massive efficiencies could be achieved. Not a peep in this budget about such fundamental service design even though its horizon is three years. When will the council start getting smarter?
In the same way ward focused resources such as ward forum co-ordinators, envirocrime officers, park rangers, cleansing monitoring people and community safety could have been similarly aligned with wards and police Safer Neighbourhood teams rather than being ripped up altogether by Labour. Add in the local knowledge and skills of councillors and the enthusiasm of residents and you could achieve amazing things by localising these services. Push the budgets out to the wards and the priorities will be seen to quick enough. You can only assume that both the Labour cabinet and the officers don’t see the ranks of Labour councillors as being capable of leading that kind of change. Far better in their minds to keep the centre strong and slash the frontline.