The council’s cabinet is due to tackle ‘incredibly difficult decisions’ on which crucial services are to be slashed.
Ealing Council says the £96 million cuts from Government are disproportionate to savings other departments have to make and crucial decisions will be made at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (November 25).
Council leader Julian Bell, who referred to the situation as impossible and heartbreaking, said: “The villains are the bankers, the Tory led Government and Eric Pickles. They are spending more and borrowing more rather than getting rid of the deficit. We have no choice in this, we have to set a balanced budget.
“By the end of February we have to get a balanced budget. The clock is ticking and we still have £40m to find. We have a mountain to climb and are open to suggestions from people.”
The council has £152m to spend (controllable budget) in 2014-2015, which goes down to £130m in 2015-2016 and again down to £82m from 2018-2019.
Mr Bell said 70 per cent of their controllable budget will go on children and adult services. He said in terms of day centres at risk of closure, users would be assessed using national criteria and personal budgets could be allocated according to needs, to try and find elsewhere for people to go.
He said council tax would still be frozen in the first year and then kept as low as possible after that, the same promise made in 2010.
Changes to services could include homes getting two wheelie bins for refuse and recycling and collections for those two bins being done on alternate weeks, as of April 2016.
Mr Bell said this would save money in the long term, result in less spillage and encourage people to recycle more.
Greg Stafford, Leader of the Conservatives, said: “Labour is sitting on millions in reserves, and whilst they were happy to dip into to award themselves a pay increase, they are not willing to fund vital frontline services. As it is, the current contractor cannot collect the weekly waste and recycling in a timely fashion. Moving to a fortnightly service will only exacerbate this problem. It’s quite clear that rather than defending our services, Labour is hell-bent on destroying them.”
The opposition has said the value of the refuse and recycling contract is staying the same, but the service provided is less.
They also said timing of savings are political, with the biggest cuts of £50m made in year one- pre general election- and the smallest cuts of £10m made in the final year- pre local election.
Mr Bell added: “At the moment it may well be that we have to use some of our reserves to balance the budget.
“None of the decisions have been made yet.”
The proposals being considered by the council’s cabinet include:
• Consulting users of Elm Lodge and Sycamore Lodge about relocating day services to the Michael Flanders Centre
• Reviewing the budget for day centre transport
• Consulting users of the Solace mental health drop-in centre about its closure
• Reorganising foster care provision to create greater efficiency by transferring some services from external providers to the in-house service
• Increasing the charge of bulky item collections from £20 for eight items to £40
• Introducing a new charge for the disposal of DIY waste which will need to be taken to Greenford Reuse and Recycling Centre which would be charged for by weight
• Charging for skip permits at £50 a fortnight in non-CPZ areas and £100 a fortnight in CPZ zones. This is in line with many other boroughs
• Reorganising staffing structures within the council’s adults services
• Restructure of the play service including consulting the users of Lammas Park play centre about its closure
• Reducing the funding for school crossing patrols
• Reducing council funding for additional police officers and PCSOs. The council is proposing to fund police posts on its housing estates.
• Increased fees from advertising hoardings
• Reducing road gritting operations
• Reducing the grounds maintenance budget
• Introducing paperless parking vouchers and increasing charges for households with multiple cars
• Reducing the running cost of Perceval House and reducing spend on IT, council buildings, financial services, security and internal cleaning services
• More than 400 council staff are at risk of redundancy. Already the council has reduced its senior management by 30%. A further 14 senior posts are at risk of redundancy in this round of savings.