GREENWICH Council is planning "significant" cuts of at least £26.8 million - and possibly "over £30m," according to confidential council documents leaked to greenwich.co.uk.
Options being discussed by the ruling Labour group for making the saving include:
- "restrict[ing] access to [council] services;"
- part-privatisation of health and social care;
- reducing streetcleaning and recycling services;
- ending or reducing funding for the local Metropolitan Police violent and organised crime unit;
- reduced grants to voluntary organisations;
- a "review of terms and conditions" for the council's workforce;
- the scrapping of "services, activities or projects which are low priority."
- higher charges for council services, such as parking, and for leaseholders;
- withdrawal from collective bodies such as London Councils and the Local Government Association.
The plans are contained in a confidential document written by the council's chief executive, Mary Ney, leaked to this website and downloadable here (PDF file, 612kb).
The document was discussed at a private meeting of the ruling Labour group on October 12, where Labour members talked about the council's new "medium term financial strategy," to take effect from April 2011.
The minutes say: "It is known that the financial climate in this next period will be particularly challenging...It is expected that funding will be restricted and the Council will need to make significant reductions in its expenditure. Current best estimates are [of]... a reduction in revenue budgets of £26.8 million over the four-year period of the next administration."
The minutes add that the council will also need to "consider whether to continue" with some other programmes which "would raise the savings target to over £30 million." The programmes listed are the violent and organised crime unit, Cleansweep (street cleaning) and waste management (recycling.)
The minutes say: "Whilst every effort should be made to deliver these spending reductions through efficiencies, the scale of the task may mean that more difficult choices will be needed in relation to continuation of services."
Council officers will, says the document, "identify a number of cost-cutting workstreams, reporting back to members as work is progressed." A total of 19 cost-cutting workstreams are identified.
Among the most controversial options is workstream 4, which says that "proposals [will] be brought forward for the delivery of services via social enterprise models." Among the services listed as suitable for this is "health and social care."
Workstream 6 is about grants to the voluntary sector and says: "As a minimum, this is likely to require cash-limited and possibly reduced budgets."
Workstream 10 is to "scrutinise all Council activity to identify those services, activities or projects which are low priority and could cease."
Workstream 12 is entitled "restricted access to services" and will "examine options to reduce demand and volume."
There are also plans for "workforce efficiences," with a review of "terms and conditions," and for a "review of the charging strategy."
However, one area protected from cuts is the Olympics, on which the council plans to spend at least £10 million.
Cllr Spencer Drury, leader of the Conservative opposition, said: "Labour have a hidden programme of cuts in place and are refusing to be open about their plans. Greenwich Council's incompetence and inefficiency is what leads them to have to make these dramatic cuts. They have already wasted £27 million because they are three years late on their new school building programme. There are lots of ways they could have saved money by running themselves differently."
Cllr Chris Roberts, the council leader, declined to comment when approached by greenwich.co.uk tonight.
However, at the last full council meeting, on 28 October - sixteen days after the Labour group discussed making cuts - Cllr Roberts said: "The issue of cuts has not materialised." However, he added: "When the financial strategy is developed, it will obviously be brought to the council to be voted on."