Lewisham budget cuts - public consultation results

Lynn: Who’s upset you this time?
Alan: Just… people. I just… hate the general public.
- I'm Alan Partrdige

Following Lewisham's big conversation about where and how the Council should find cost savings, it has released a summary of the results. Even this top-line version comes with the caveat that the consultation that involved 1,200 residents was in no-way a poll or referendum, merely a useful guide.

Depressingly, the 1,000 survey respondents said that town centres - one of the few public resources we all use and one of the most important drivers of local prosperity - were considered the area that could most easily have spending reduced. This result is possibly due to the fact that the consultation lumped the word "business" in with "town centres", and everyone knows that businesses are all run by fat cats. Either that or it just goes to show that people don't know what's good for them. Likewise Climate Change and Employment and Training fared poorly. Adult social care (by far the largest single item of Council expenditure considered by this survey, with a budget of £69m) was deemed the area that it is least acceptable to cut, followed by activities for young people.

Roads, sport and libraries were the areas of Council expenditure that respondents said they'd be most willing to pay more for.

In the "Have Your Say" forms provided at local assemblies "cleaning the borough" came out as the clear priority, followed by libraries.

Here's the full presentation and here's what the Council release says:

The following themes came out strongly:

- Protect spending on services to the most vulnerable in the community
- It’s acceptable to reduce spending in some areas, but generally only in those areas where the Council spends relatively small sums
- People are prepared to pay more for some services
- Businesses could do more and the Council could help people to do more
- The Council should continue to find efficiencies and cut its costs.

People generally thought it was right that levels of service should be reviewed in order to find ways to reduce spending and, where possible, to find efficiencies and reduce staff costs. Significant numbers were prepared to pay more, or have people charged more, for some services, rather than see them cut. A significant number of people also said they would do more themselves to reduce the need for Council spending on services, although this was still a minority (around one in ten).

What do you think? And as you write, bear in mind that this thread was lifted almost wholesale for the Local Government Chronicle's "Views of the Week" column (thanks to Ruth for spotting that), so what you say could go right to the top... of the Local Government Chronicle's news editor's in-tray.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

How much per head on Council Tax would it cost to stop these cuts.

Brockley Nick said...

Someone else will probably be able to tell you, but a fag packet calculation on the basis that there are approximately 120,000 households in Lewisham and the cuts are £60m, the average Council Tax rise per household would need to be £500 per year, with many paying much more than that...

Brockley Nick said...

PS - but of course Council Tax has been frozen by central government, so the question is academic.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Mayor pre-empt the government and freeze Council Tax?

Isn't Lewisham one or the highest Band D council tax in London?

What additional services are provided in this borough that other boroughs don't have?

In a deprivided area such as Lewisham the public seem to saying they'd rather the council spend money on a 20 minute firework display than (for example)employing 1 or 2 staff to deal with drugs and gang culture.

darryl said...

Anonymous - another comment from Greenwich Council press office, there?

The electorate in Ladywell ward seemed to give a big enough endorsement of the cuts last week.

Anonymous said...

According to the councils 2010/11 budget book it was due to spend £271.454.

Of that sum £91.184m wil come from Council Tax.

Usinga magic number Band D council tax was set at £1042.11 plus the GLA precept of £309.

Taking £60m as extra spending means £151.184m would need to be raised through council tax in 3 years time...

Using the magic number produces a Band D council tax of....drum roll....£1,727.84p.

This would be built up over 3 years.

Sky+ HD is currently being advertised at £444 a year.

John Lilburne said...

The yourlewisham "consultation" in my opinion, was a complete waste of time. You were asked which service you wanted to keep but were only gave a few selected services you would happy to lose instead. It was complete nonsense and didn't give options of things the Council are planning on keeping. For example, I would like to keep my streets clean but as a consequence I wouldn't mind losing five libraries was the sort of option provided. No where was there the option I want to keep my library open, but would like to see Lewisham Council stop spending ££££'s on consultants. The option to get rid of Lewisham Life which would save a few £££'s wasn't there and the option to get rid of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, his office, and his fund either funnily enough.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 1903 - you seem to be answering your own questions with slightly contradictory criticisms:

"Didn't the Mayor pre-empt the government and freeze Council Tax?

"Isn't Lewisham one or the highest Band D council tax in London?"

Yes, are you complaining that tax is too high or that the Mayor tried to prevent further increases?

"What additional services are provided in this borough that other boroughs don't have?

"In a deprivided area such as Lewisham the public seem to saying they'd rather the council spend money on a 20 minute firework display than (for example)employing 1 or 2 staff to deal with drugs and gang culture."

As you point out, Lewisham is a relatively deprived borough, so fewer taxpayers and more dependents, hence the high tax without delivering "more" services.

I wouldn't go to the wall for fireworks, but you have presented a choice between managing misery and inspiring the community. I hope there will be room for both in any budget.

Anonymous said...

Table 5: Total spend on 'Our Lewisham, Our Say' gives a figure of £1451.25 - that can't be the whole cost of the entire exercise.

The link here leads only to appendix 10 - and I can't find a link (even on the lewisham website) to anything more substantial than this - is there anything more? Appendices 1-9 perhaps? Or even the full document?

Maybe this is all the Council thought its ratepayers could understand.

Tim said...

Nick,

It isn't the council's job to "inspire the community". It is the council's job to provide basic services. When did local goverment become some sort of vehicle to provide entertainment?

Brockley Nick said...

@tim - so you say. I think one of the council's basic duties should be to provide some cultural programme, which generates economic activity, community cohesion and delivers value to those who get a good night for a relative pittance. The Brockley MAX, for example, delivers phenomenal return for a very small investment.

I was not arguing the case for fireworks per se, although 100,000 visitors means it generated very good value for money, while reducing firework-related injuries.

But yes, a Council's first duty is to keep the streets clean, no argument from me there.

Name said...

I would suggest charging certain sectors more for things. Car related activities can be squeezed to get money for services. It must be stringently hypothecated however.

This Is England said...

What on earth does 'stringently hypothecated' mean??? Could we have some plain English please?

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with using a dictionary?

Anonymous said...

@Nick

This is about Council Tax and as far as I am aware its level is based on bricks & mortar rather than deprivation and the ability to pay it.

The public also have choices pay for the services they want from the council or pay for such things as Sky+ or an XBox.

I would suggest in certain parts of the borough any scheme to 'inspire the community' would be pooh, poohed with some right royal language.

Southwark spends £320m, Band D = £912.14p

Lambeth spends £311m, Band D = £925.29

2 boroughs that could also be described as deprived, with a bigger spend but lower Band D council tax than Lewisham.

2 boroughs which have like Lewisham have not increased council tax for 2 years.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - there are lots of reductions, depending on circumstance. But that's only half the equation - the other side is how much support you need from council services. As the article says, adult social care is the biggest budget item - this is not being generally spent on people in full employment.

As for inspiring events being pooh-poohed by some. I dare say. They are wrong - and 100,000 people turning out for fireworks is pretty good evidence that they are in the minority. I'm sure your idea of employing gang liaison officers would be considered stupid by many too.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - Southwark and Lambeth are quite different in composition to Lewisham, which has no comparable riverside commercial development, for one thing. How do the three boroughs' non-residential incomes compare?

oryx said...

Completely agree with John Lilburne.

I would be surprised if a lot of people hadn't put in the 'comments' bit at the end of the survey that if the council really wanted to save money it could get rid of Lewisham Life and the mayor's office but can't see any feedback on this. (Not that I'm surprised, BTW).

The Cat Man said...

Why am I not surprised that 'adult social care' is the area where cuts are least accepted - presumably paying more for the other areas - roads, parks etc, would mean those adults on social care receipts will be exempt?

Plus when you say social care, are we talking those on social benefits - housing etc, or those who are ill in some way and need specialist care?

Anonymous said...

Look, I'm support universal suffrage as much as the next man but can look at removing the vote from Cat Man?

Anonymous said...

"Plus when you say social care, are we talking those on social benefits - housing etc, or those who are ill in some way and need specialist care?"

What if youre a builder and have destroyed your back by the time you're 58? unemployed and may need specialist care. Scrounger or deserving poor in your book? £62.50 per week, keep that figure in mond when the the mail bleats about dole scroungers.

Mary P said...

Adult Social Care is primarily the support given to the disabled, long-term sick (or those booted out too soon from hospital) and the elderly that enables them to continue to lead semi-independent lives.

The comments section on the Our Lewisham Our Say consultation would be the most interesting - but probably that least considered. I certainly suggested that the playing at democracy - the Young Mayor set-up and Ward Assemblies (and the new proposals for an elected body of older people to feed back opinion to the council committees) are luxuries in an era or cuts and opinion could be adequately gathered by direct questioning of stake-holders and existing groups.

Tamsin said...

Interesting document...
I think they should perhaps have adjusted the figures for the Telegraph Hill assembly to reflect those who actually stayed for the second half of the meeting!
The spend breakdown on the final page looks ridiculously low - but I suppose a lot of it was internal resources being re-deployed (like the road-show bus was the playbus from Children Centre Area 1). But the JC Decaux posters at £13 - didn't they have to pay the company to display them?

Anonymous said...

Just as well the Council Tax has been frozen then.

Anonymous said...

Was this consultation and the subsequent results done in house at the Council or did they bring in consultants???? Are we going to be told how much this whole exercise about cost-cutting has actually cost? I look forward to details from the press office.....

This Is England said...

I see no one knows what 'stringently hypothecated' means. It's not in my dictionary. I must pop over to Waitrose in Canary Wharf and see if they've a more up-to-date bankers' dictionary.

Brockley Nick said...

It means ring-fenced

Brockley Economist said...

@ Nick,

I think it is a little stricter than that, and the OED on my desk agrees. "Hypothecate" means pledge to a specific purpose (ring-fencing as you suggest) but specifically by law. If "Name" were suggesting that Lewisham Council should hypothecate (unclear from post), he is only correct to use the word to the extent that Lewisham can be ascribed legislative powers.

@ This is England

I totally agree. The point of language is communication. Using an arcane and obscure word like "hypothecate" does not convey any content as much as communicate that the person using it is demonstrating the size of their cranium.

This Is England said...

Apologies for mis-spelling 'bankers', slip of the wrist.

Name said...

You guys win, I'll not bother posting here. Life is too short to be dealing, with online aggression & arrogance.

Cheerio

Osh said...

name, After the stick you've taken in good grace over the years, this is a trivial matter to resign over. Don't do it!

agnomen said...

Name, personally I would just post under a different name.

Mb said...

George owell has been here before. His five rules for writing....

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Brockley Nick said...

pfft, George Orwell. Don't get me started on that hack.He couldn't inscribe to save his mortal being.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

He did have a nice local though.

Pity J D Weatherspoon (the Tesco of the Licence trade) have sullied the name.

Two points for identifying the pub in question

TM again said...

Hmmmm I may have just strayed off topic!

Danja said...

Using an arcane and obscure word like "hypothecate" does not convey any content as much as communicate that the person using it is demonstrating the size of their cranium

I'm not clear whether that meant "only big heads use big words" or "only brainy show-offs use big words". But I find the meritorious irony most efficaously gelastic anyway.

Oh and cranium i

Danja said...

You'll have to correct my spelling for me, thanks.

Tamsin said...

Meritorious or meretricious (which so delightfully and confusingly are so opposite in meaning)?

And to add to the comments - don't use "hypothecate" (which I had to look up) when "ring-fenced" is both more intelligible and more accurate.

Anonymous said...

Can we PLEASE get back on topic? I hope those that ate a thesaurus today have finally had their fill.

Lou Baker said...

@anon 0913

Your hypothetical builder - who had to give up work aged 58 - should have been insured for loss of earnings. He then gets a proper income when the worst happens without being a burden on the state.

Ah, you say, but that costs £20 a month. I'm sure said builder can merrily drink that much several times a week.

Also - if he's anything like most of the builders I've encountered - he's probably been doing at least some of his work cash in hand for years. Effectively stealing from those he expects to bail him out.

Anonymous said...

Yes Lou, works a treat in the states

hilly dogger said...

we don't accept cash, but we do plenty of work in hand

Anonymous said...

"Adult social care (by far the largest single item of Council expenditure considered by this survey, with a budget of £69m) was deemed the area that it is least acceptable to cut, followed by activities for young people."

Considering that Lewisham has one of the highest percentage of benefit claimers able to work I am not surprised.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see that in time of shortage of money the fact that half of the population of Brockley is prepared to pay for parking was not noticed by the Council.

Monkeyboy said...

I suspect you'll find its the largest proportion of any local authority spend. Social care, you know those evil old people and those who have special needs.....bastards.

Tressilliana said...

I'm astonished by the number of people posting here who seem to think that councils are responsible for paying income support and other benefits that go to the unemployed and long-term sick. That comes out of National Insurance, doesn't it? Lewisham's social care budget goes on meals on wheels, home helps for the housebound, social workers in child protection teams and assorted other services that help the most vulnerable people in the area. Are you suggesting that retired people and children should be out sweeping the streets to pay for their gruel?

peter said...

crofton park library is to close offer been made to an organisation not in the ward a deal has been done what a waste of everyones time and effort to save it Bullock should resign over this sham

max said...

I'm actually quite surprised that the Council consulted on that in the first place. Isn't the bulk of that statutory support that cannot be withdrawn anyway?

max said...

My comment was about the social care expendiure of course - not Crofton Park library.

Peter, can you be clearer about what you're trying to say.
What deal? Which organisation?

Brockley Nick said...

@TM - It was Moon Under Water, Charing X Road

mb said...

I posted a link to the article. It's an excellent bit of writing. I'll try and find it when I've got a moment.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor has been there before regarding Adult Care and got stung, I'm sure he'll manage it differently this time.

Anonymous said...

Since when did 'hypothecate' become an obscure and arcane word?!

Anonymous said...

Why do people bleat on about 'the poor and the vulnerable' every time somebody mentions cuts?

Would these be the 'poor and the vulnerable' who can't survive on housing benefit of less than £20k a year plus more in benefits than the average salary?

Tamsin said...

@Anon 00.40 - Ever since, despite 50+ years of using the English language and a three year degree course, I had to look it up in a dictionary. It also seemed mis-used unless current jargon has changed its meaning. According to the entry in the rather elderly office dictionary hypothecate means to use something as a pledge or guarantee without possession passing. In the context of the original posting this is hard to fit with what sounded more like ring-fenced funds.

@Anon 00.43 The poor and vulnerable are not those you refer to who work the complexities of the sytem to their unfair advantage but people who are defeated by those same complexities, who slip through the net, who don't claim all they are entitled to or need. The sort of people who are helped by voluntary agencies of the type whose funding will be cut because it is not a statutory obligation.

A different anon said...

Anon...you silly person

The £20k thing will be a cap, you would be very unlikely to reach anywhere near that unless you had a family to supoort. You know, children who need to fed and clothed.

How many claimants get anything like that?

The vast majority have to cope on £62.50 ish a week, think about it.

Tressilliana said...

I thought hypothecate was a fairly well known word in the context of taxes and public spending. It means raising a tax for a specific purpose, doesn't it? So you might have a hypothecated tax on cigarettes to pay for smoking cessation programmes and treating lung cancer.

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