Ealing Tories have claimed the council is cutting crucial services unnecessarily this year as budget figures were disputed at a cabinet meeting.
At last night’s meeting (November 26), opposition leader Councillor Gregory Stafford said: “To balance the budget this year only £35m savings are needed, why is your target £50m? Is this a cynical election ploy?
“Given you do not actually need to save that extra £15m this year could this (the closure of day centres such as Carlton Road and Solace) not be delayed?”
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, Labour councillor for Northolt West End and cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “You are trying to pretend it’s not a correct budget. With all these savings we still have £40m to find. I do not know if you have that in your back pocket Councillor Stafford, I definitely do not.”
The Conservative leader asked why only £1.5m cuts from management have been proposed in the next four years and what the policy decision was behind enforcing car parking permits on second vehicles when some families need more than one car.
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance, performance and welfare, said: “Some of the services that are down will affect management.
“If you have a second car you would have to have a lot of money, if you can run it you must be able to afford a permit for it. I think people should be walking to school or getting a bike.”
Ealing’s Liberal Democrats leader Councillor Gary Malcolm questioned changes proposed to the refuse and recycling service. He said: “Consultation previously showed everyone apart from those in Southall were against fortnightly collections.”
He added: “You say you are protecting elderly people and children: all of the items that relate to day centres fly in the face of that.”
He said they will be calling in the closure of day centres for scrutiny.
Ms Johnson recognised savings from the closure of day centres may be small, but that small sums add up. She said there is talk of providing the service Elm Lodge offers in Harrow.
Council leader Julian Bell said: “Your party (Tories) is responsible for the mess we are currently in.
“So far we have only got less than half of our target of £50m so we have an awful long way to go.
“We have not made a decision on these proposals, we will consult and we will listen, for example if there are any voluntary organisations who would be prepared to run the Solace centre.”
Mr Bell said the council would listen if day centre users wanted to be kept together and would try provide alternative services.
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.