Two of the most controversial savings in Labourâ€™s budget was the closure of the Albert Dane day centre in Southall which provides services to disabled adults and the LINKS project based at 133 Windmill Lane, Greenford which helps people with mental health problems. The LINKS saving is worth Â£279K and the Albert Dane Â£156K.
The reason I am considering them under the capital side of the budget is that the revenue savings are modest and are not the real driver for closing these services. The real reason is the councilâ€™s Property Strategy. This is an officer led initiative to roll up a number of community assets and sell them in order to release funds to spend on the development of three shiny new council offices, one in Acton, Southall and Greenford. In addition to proceeds from property sales the project will consume Â£8.7 million of borrowing. The borrowing and proceeds from these two property sales are included in the budget papers.
I can see that with the increase of personalisation, jargon for service users having their own personal budget for choosing their own service packages, there is scope for providing more flexible, customer-oriented services. To me this requires premises, probably run by voluntary sector operators. If the Labour cabinet was leading rather than being led, it might have wanted to think through how the current buildings could have been used by the voluntary sector to provide new services. They could have lost the revenue commitment by giving up the buildings. This would have meant a stronger voluntary sector and no new council buildings. So bad?