Lewisham Council proposes £28m in further budget cuts

The News Shopper reports on the scale of Lewisham Council's proposed budget cuts, outlined in a paper for the budget Select Committee. As the paper says, "it's bad news for just about everyone."

The paper has a more detailed list of the cuts, but the main savings include:

- £1.7 million cut to the "Supporting People" budget, which provides help to 'vulnerable people'
- £1 million saving by cutting Horizones and Wesley Halls day care centres
- £750,000 saving by reducing residential road sweeping from a weekly to (in some cases) a monthly service
- £270,000 reduction in funding to Community Safety programmes which help victims of domestic violence and anti-social behaviour
- £200,000 saving by withdrawing discretionary Freedom passes
- £187,000 reduction in the Local Assembly budget - more than halving the total budget

If approved next year, the cuts would save £28.3m over three years.

We'll leave it to others with a better working knowledge of some of the other programmes to say what they think, but in our view, if they halve the LA budget, they should just go the whole-hog and scrap the programme.

Assemblies are great, but they are an expensive exercise in local democratic engagement and if they don't have any significant money to allocate, their main reason for being ceases to exist. The money could then be spent on other vital services, or diverted to the local good causes they are supposed to fund.


Anonymous said...

I am all for the cuts as I am all for living within ones means and I don't think our children's children should have to pay for us to live.

However the cutting of the Horizones and Wesley Halls day care centres is a step too far in my opinion.

This is the stuff I WANT to pay tax for, in fact I would pay more to save stuff like these.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 15 October 2012 16:38:

Is that because you use those services or just because you think they're worthwhile?

Obviously, many people would like to pay for the services we use and ditch the ones we don't, but unfortunately it doesn't work like that!

Re: street cleaning... Can someone make a pun about sweeping changes, please?

John Rawls said...

Erm...first anon. I'm happy to pay for services mine and your children's children will benefit from. It's an investment in our future. Unless you think that no one has an obligation to anyone except themselves, the philosophy of Anne rand who was basically nuts. Yes, I'm also not grossly offended about paying for schools that a previous generation built to educate me. Very amusing to see the indignation about cuts to public services that impact you. A lot of previously untouched demographic groups will start to see an impact and realise that public services include them.

Cuts are probably required but the ideological retreat of the state is starting to be rumbled.

Ian on the Hill said...

Unfortunately the figure quoted is misleading and underestimated.

£28 million were what managers could come up with as proposals, but £40 million over two years is the figure Lewisham needs to meet. It's no secret that large numbers of redundancies and loss of service will be needed to meet that.

It's a bloodbath.

Brockley Nick said...

@Ian - sure, but it is the scale of the budget cuts being proposed by the paper that is the subject of this article.

Anonymous said...

@John Rawls,
The basic left wing trick of climbing on a high moral horse and classifying all comsumption as 'investment' is what got us into this mess in the first place. "Ideological retreat", YES, bring it on!!!!

michael said...

No saving on the £190,000 for Lewisham People's Day and Blackheath Fireworks for the people of Greenwich.

Give that money to Local Assemblies and see if local neighbourhood can't find a better use of the money. These two festivals can bid to each assembly for the £10k from each ward.

Ian on the Hill said...

@Nick, in case anyone was thinking these are the cuts facing Lewisham I wanted to make it clear: managers were asked to come up with £40 million in cuts. Making the most extreme cuts they thought they could get away with and still run a service these £28 million were the best they could, with pain, propose. The total figure is going to be much worse - I imagine all these services will have to come back with revisions for larger amounts. So take these with a pinch of salt, the actual figures will have to be much larger

Defo not Robert Nozick said...

Well lets see how the coalition are doing, deficit? National debt? Oh dear..... It's a practical bit of economics, Keynes was no rampant Marxist or left winger. Even gorgeous George is seeing that but he's put so much political capital on the austerity thing that he can't change, even if the facts have.

At least we agree that the cuts are as much ideological as economic. If only the government was as honest. (Although I'm not sure you actually understand my point)

What got us into this mess is an over reliance on the wisdom of the markets, the markets need the state. It's a bit of a paradox. Have a lie down in a darkened room until it clicks.

Anonymous said...

Abuse and magical thinking, it seems that's all the left have to offer now. Never mind, you'll get your turn in two years time to show us how to really screw up an economy.

Anonymous said...

Whats a 'discretionary' Freedom Pass?

Tamsin said...

I think it might be the travel at peak times which is not set in the legislation but an add-on promised by various London Mayors. Fairly crucial for the elderly when hospital appointments and the like get dished out at 9.30 and 10am. It's not as if anyone who has an option wants to travel with hoardes of commuters and school-children.

Agree - ditch the Local Assemblies and the Young Mayor set up - both rather luxurious playing at consultation and democracy in the current times. There are better ways of garnering youth opinion and distributing the same amount of money to small local initiatives.

Anonymous said...

Fingers crossed all this money they'll save will going into defeating the mighty BC pan fried chicken troll! lol

Anonymous said...

I would have started by cutting overheads at the Council, starting from overpaid top management.

Economics for dummies. said...

Magical thinking? Me and David Cameron know who Keynes, Rawls and nozick are. I don't agree with him but if you red up on what he studied at university you may get a better idea of what motivates him.

The "nations credit card is full"*is just guff they throw out for those who read a newspaper but can't be arsed to look any deeper.

*we dont have a credit card

Lou Baker said...


Please don't feed us the 'all pensioners are poor' line. Some pensioners are poor. Others are exceptionally wealthy - even if that wealth is not sat in a bank account. The fact is the older generation had gold plated pensions, are in homes that have rocketed in value and they get a raft of ridiculous benefits too. Scandalous.

The fact is we live beyond our means. Ian on the Hill talks of a bloodbath. The choice is simple we either pay for all this gump or we get rid of it. If you want your tax doubled to pay for schemes of marginal worth you can vote for a party that advocates such. If you think you know how to spend your money better than the government does you have that option too.

Anonymous said...

"I would have started by cutting overheads at the Council, starting from overpaid top management."

...if you read the report you will see:

"The Council has already reduced its revenue budget by £53m since May 2010. On the estimates
set out in this report further savings of between £30m and £55m will be required in 2013/14
and 2014/15, with a likely estimated savings requirement of £40m. Of these, savings of
£4.7m to take effect in 2013/14 have already been formally agreed by Council."

As someone said earlier - it's a bloodbath, the staff cuts caused by this are already massive. One or two directors or senior managers going won't even touch the sides of what needs to be cut.

I don't really see what the alternative is though? It's just extremely depressing

Anonymous said...

I'm a pensioner, I don't have a 'gold-plated pension' because I retired recently and my pension plan lost about 40% of its value since 2008. I can't afford the upkeep of my house, nor the £200+ a month council tax. Tough isn't it?

Lou Baker said...


Sell your house then. You have a house, right? You said you can't afford it's up keep. Move.

What about those poor sods - working age - who can't even afford to get on the housing ladder? They don't get a free TV licence or winter fuel payments. Or free travel - a perk in London which is worth thousands a year.

I am sorry about your pension, truly. But everyone's having a tough time.

Brockley Lesnar said...

Road sweeping is one of the very few services the council provide that I actually benefit from directly.

Grateful if they would instead remove £750k from the somewhat laughable c£20m budget in pay costs they accrue from their back office services including finance, personal development, audit, strategy, and policy teams(pages 35-42):


Reducing front line services instead of back office bureaucracy a shockingly irresponsible choice and taken because it is the path of least resistance.

Anonymous said...

discretionary Freedom Passes are London only Freedom passes issued to people who are not covered by the statuatory definition of disabled at the discression of the council. Most are apparently issued to people with mental illness.

Tim said...

Completely agree with Lou. You own a house you can't afford to maintain? Well I could also own a house I can't afford but choose not to. Home owning 40-70 year olds don't appreciate how lucky they are. Many have large amounts of equity in their house AND generous pension schemes. It is a disgrace that we are expecting the younger generation to pick up this generation's bill by claiming we should do "Keynesian fiscal stimulus" which is actually a refusal to come to terms with how irresponsible we've been for 15 years.

Anonymous said...

Hold on a cotton picking minute...

Last year councils such as Lambeth and Tower Hamlets announced savings of about £70m over 3 years.

Lewisham announced savings of £33m in one year to bring its budget for 2011/12 to £281m.

Anonymous said...

From the council's Council Tax notifications....

£278.0m Net Budget Requirement
£187.0m Formula Grant
£92m Council Tax

£268.5m Net Budget Requirement
£174.0m Formula Grant
£93m Council Tax

Tamsin said...

Some pensioners are well off enough to drive or take taxis. They don't apply for a freedom pass and so it doesn't get paid for by the tax payer. What is wrong with that?

Others use their freedom passes to get around to their voluntary work, to get across town to pick up their grandchildren from school (so that their children can contribute to the economy), or simply to get out of the house. The health and social care cost implications should be borne in mind before these universal age related benefits that help keep people independent and healthy are removed. Also the massive administation costs of means-testing. We want to reduce beurocracy, not increase it.

??? said...

Tim, you dont agree with Lou. Lou wants to spend on infastructure (through government borrowing) because longer term we gain - Kensyanism. The government is still borrowing, it's borrowing more than we did two years ago. It's not politics, it's how economies work. The national debt will not reduce if we have nothing left over from spending to keep ticking over (in fact we need to borrow more to do that, the deficit is still there which apparently the fault of 'red tape' and the feckless poor)

Anonymous said...

BL...you think that 'back office' activities like finance, purchasing, audit etc are waste? try working for an organisation as complex with as high a buget in the private sector and you'll realise how laughable that is.

Rachman said...

I can immediately find three savings that can be made.

The council is the freeholder of a 2-apartment house in which I own one of the flats. Try as I might to get the council to stop viewing me as a 'tenant' (rather than a landlord) and sending me their ridiculius bumf to leaseholders, in many differnt languages, is a watse of money.

Neither do I need to go to (council) tenant AGMs, etc,

It's an utter waste of time and money and Lewisham Council should not include home owners under 'council tenants' - which obscures the books and is costly.

Another saving Lewisham Council may make, and this one may upset some of you. There are two electric meters in the hallway at my building. After buying the flat I discovered that the one to my flat has been siphoning off from the council's hallway electricity meter - for 15 years.

teh previous owner had only been paying half to cost of hallway electricity, which was about £50 per year.

Apparently millions of pounds are being siphoned off in this manner but the council will not pursue the previous owners for this loss in revenue. Also, the electricity company employed to monitor this oversight is not closing the gap.

In fact when I informed Lewisham of the abuse they tried to charge me instead!

Finally, Steve Bullock sits on many committees in addition to hsi role as mayor. He is well renumerated for these pposition bringing his pay pask in the 500,000 Pa region. This suggests to me that he does not need to be mayor that much - and should take a pay cut.

Anonymous said...

The trouble is that whatever the government does or doesn't do, really no one knows whats going to happen, least of all the government. We're all living in cloud cuckoo land. I heard on the radio this morning that food price increases have meant that in the UK a purchase for a meal for a family now costs an average of £7. In South Sudan, the same amount and type of food would cost the equivalent of over £1,000. What do you think about that Tim and Lou?

Anon 16:38 said...

I am the Anon 16.38 who made the very first comment above.
@Anon 16:46
I don’t directly use any of the services listed however I do benefit from the street cleaning. I don’t want the day care centres to close because I think those services are worthwhile. I believe our taxes should be used to help people who are genuinely unable to help themselves through no fault of their own, such as the sick and the elderly. I would therefore rather cut benefits to those who created their own problems through bad decisions, laziness, or by deliberately creating a situation where they would qualify for benefits. I think healthy able-bodied adults should be given a certain period of help rather than endless free stuff for life such as Council houses, i.e. we should support people back into an independent existence rather than provide for some people forever.
Camden Council is currently offering people who enjoyed low rent Council housing a £25,000 free cash incentive to vacate its own houses which are too big for the in-place tenants – this kind of ‘benefits for life’ situation is ludicrous and as you can see in Camden incredibly costly. It’s kind of like the third world charity question, don’t just give them the grain, show them how to grow their own… support independence rather than promote reliance.
@ John Rawls
I don’t have any children. None of these services listed for cuts will benefit your childrens children apart from the Horizones and Wesley Halls day care centres which are the thing I am saying should not be cut. So not sure which of the listed items being cut you believe are an investment in their future?
I don’t understand your comment “Very amusing to see the indignation about cuts to public services that impact you” as I hadn’t told you which ones impact me? Do you therefore oppose any cuts whatsoever as you think the state should have a bottomless pit of available money to pay for it? IMO, us borrowing billions to pay for our street cleaning, welfare system etc… and leaving the bill for the future generation even though they will certainly not benefit from it is wrong.

Look people, none of us actually LIKE the cuts, be us blue, red, green or pink. In an ideal world we would spend until the cows come home and all live happily ever after. I expect the people on this website are normal individuals who run families and manage our own household budgets. If we find ourselves short of cash one month, we cut back on our spending. If we get a pay reduction we cancel that sky sports subscription or that weekend away, whatever it takes to make sure we are living within our means. That is all we need to do as a country to stop the ship from sinking.

Anonymous said...

@Tim: If by Keynsian fiscal stimulus you mean quantative easing, its QE that really screwed up pensions by driving down annuity rates. People retiring now are much worse off than those who retired 5 years ago, partly because of QE.

Brockley Lesnar said...

Anon 8:19.

No, not saying those back office functions are not worthwhile- to the contrary they are crucial for the sound running of an organisation, especially one funded by the taxpayer.

However, requiring what looks like a £75m total budget (c£20m pay) to administer a c£300m annual budget is frankly an embarassing ratio.

I definitely see my council tax payments as contribution to the wider society that I live in and am happy to make them. However, as a fully fledged payer, it is perfectly reasonable for me to say that I want clean sheets on a weekly basis, not a public servant in an office with a risk register or issues log.

Anonymous said...

BL, look at the private sector if you want to see more of that - project risk controls, audits and metrics are practices taken from there. Also, it's a crude metric you quote. What's "back office" some organisations need more "back office" than "front line" depends on how you define those and what the work in "front" or "back" is. It tells you little on its own. Along with the dreaded "red tape" nice sound bites for those who are not interested in looking in detail.

Lou Baker said...

What we really need to do is to take a look at every penny government spends. National government, regional government, local government. We need to look at Quangos. At the NHS. At the BBC.

Nothing should be sacred. We need to start again from the bottom - justifying where every single penny goes.

Canada did just that. In the 1990s. Huge numbers of things were axed. The result - Canada has weathered the current crisis better than most. Few would argue that it's an unfair society.

Look - I don't want an unfair society. I don't want the genuinely needy to go homeless or hungry. But I believe in a society we should all play our part. For some that part will be small, for others it will be big. It's the fact that you're contributing that matters - not what you contribute. Take Starbucks - for example. Outrageous that they pay next to no tax. They are not breaking the letter of the law - but they're trampling on the spirit of it. And so the law should change to stop them.

Similarly, the family on benefits and in a council
house who make no effort to find work, or to better themselves or to volunteer. Equally outrageous. They should be stopped too.

Lewisham must go back to basics. Strip it all away. Rather than wondering what to cut start with a blank sheet of paper and only include what you actually need.

Brockers said...

Is the mayor of Lewisham Steve Bullock really paid £500k a year?! That's more than three times the salary of David Cameron. If so I'm in agreement with Rachman that he should be the first to cut his salary rather than cutting services.

Could it be that a Labour run council is making cuts where it hurts most to turn voters against a Conservative/Liberal Democrat government?

Brockley Lesnar said...

Anon 12:39- and where is the detail in your argument????

I have used info direct from the council's budget report and made what seems to be resonable assumptions around the nature of the departments based on their names.

Front line services has been a concept long used and established in pUblic sector speak. All of the functions mentioned in the original article are front line in their nature- a service directly facing the customer.

I've not heard a convincing argument against what I'm saying other than that you suspect I might be wrong.

Evidence please!

Anonymous said...

Re: Starbuck
Yet another proof that the taxes should not go up but down. If UK corporation ( or any other ) tax rate is competitive, international companies ( and individuals) would choose to settle here and shelter somewhere else instead!

kolp said...

The council should pour what resources it has into the Timebank iniative.
That has a social multiplier effect

Sam said...

Speaking of cuts I see 17 London firestations are facing closure including New Cross and Peckham. Man the pickets stoke the braziers, it's going to be a long winter...

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