It is now nearly three months since the elections on 6 th May that saw Labour retake Ealing Council and the ConDem coalition take power in Westminster.
A lot has happened in those three months since I became Leader of the Council and I have used many metaphors to describe what the experience has been like.
After the euphoria of the election count and the realisation of a Labour victory in Ealing I have been hard at work on behalf of the people of the Borough. That first week felt like being sent white water rafting after being sleep deprived for 48 hours – incredibly challenging and exciting at the same time.
It was and is an enormous privilege to be the leader of the Council and so I have put aside all thoughts of self and thrown myself into the challenges that we face.
In those first few weeks I had the opportunity to meet with Ken Livingstone and in our conversation he jokingly said that in four years time I wouldn’t have much hair left given the problems that were coming my way. He is right about the scale of the challenges coming Ealing Council’s way, but I’m hoping to have kept most of my hair if not stopped it going a little greyer by 2014.
The first weeks and indeed months have been like the calm before the storm and I have been cushioned by the many congratulations that people have conveyed to me. But with the recent announcement scrapping £305m funding from central government for the rebuilding and improvement of 15 of our High Schools the honey period for our administration is over. This announcement was like personally taking a physical blow.
The Council was just weeks from reaching “financial close” on the contract to improve our High Schools and had spent £4.5m in preparatory work and with one announcement – or should I say 3 or 4 botched announcements – Tory Schools Minister Michael Gove has snatched away the opportunity to provide our children with 21 st century schools.
If anyone was in any doubt about the damage that a Tory led coalition would do to our public services this decision shows the grim reality. On top of this the Council has already had nearly £2m in year cuts to our budget from the ConDem government and indications that we will have a 25% to 40% reduction in our 2011/12 government grants.
As a Labour administration we will do our best to minimise the impacts of these unprecedented cuts from the ConDem government but I fear we are in for a horrendous four years and Ken Livingstone may be right about my hair loss.