This year has been tough for Lewisham residents. We all know the economy is about people’s lives, not mere numbers. It’s about people having a job, the ability to look after their family and to feel secure in their homes and on the street.
This has been a difficult year for everyone involved in public service in Lewisham. The effects of the cuts to public spending have affected us all and we know now that we face an even more testing time in 2011. However our commitment to Lewisham and the strength of our community means that we will be able to come through this together and ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community continue to be supported not only in the cold of winter but throughout the year.
Government spending cuts
Lewisham Council is absorbing the true scale of the spending cuts it is faced with following the Government’s announcement of the money it proposes to give local councils over the next two years.
The Council had been planning to have to reduce its budget by £60 million over the next three years. Following the recent announcement, it now seems it will be forced to find a massive £89 million over the coming four years. Next year alone it is facing a reduction of £33 million.
These figures add up to the greatest financial challenge the Council has ever had to face. So far we have been able to meet most of our savings through efficiencies and have protected services to the most vulnerable. We had been expecting to reduce our budget by around £20 million next year – now we know we have to increase that amount by a further £13 million.
We will continue to do what we can to reduce the Council’s costs, like, for example, with our innovative IT procurement deal done in partnership with Bromley Council that is saving us around £1.5 million a year. I will also continue to prioritise services for vulnerable adults and children and young people.
We will, inevitably, have to shrink the size and scope of the Council and seriously consider what services we continue to provide and how we provide them.
It is still not clear how all the grants to the Council from central Government will be affected. The Council has until 17 January 2011 to respond to the Government’s provisional settlement.
My Space funding secured
My Space is a state-of-the-art youth centre for 13–19 year olds that was proposed for Sydenham. The future of the centre that was to be based on Wells Park Road has been in some doubt over the last few months and I have written and lobbied ministers on numerous occasions for this great scheme not to be dropped.
Much to my surprise this week we received a letter from the Minister confirming that funding for the scheme would not be cut. This youth-led project will benefit young people aged 13–19 in Bellingham, Sydenham and Forest Hill, particularly young people with disabilities, teenage parents, homeless young people, those at risk of crime and young carers. We are still awaiting this good news to be confirmed by the relevant department but I can’t see any problems now that we have the letter.
Children’s services – good news
Ofsted has judged Lewisham’s children’s services to be performing excellently, the highest rating that can be achieved, for the second year running.
The annual children’s services assessment examined how well Lewisham children and young people were served across education, childcare, child protection and a range of related services. Ofsted found that a very large majority of services, settings and institutions are “good or better” at helping young people to be healthy and stay safe, achieve academically, and at providing opportunities for them to do well and enjoy their learning.