Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Tag: council

Southwark propose £50m cuts over two years

Southwark has to make more than £50m of savings over two years after funding cuts made it London’s worst hit council in cash terms. Its cabinet is due to meet next week (25 Jan) to consider its budget savings proposals.

Southwark estimates that around 400 council jobs will be lost in the next 18 months with more possible losses in future years.

The proposed cuts in brief:

  • Department of the Chief Executive – Saving £7.5m. Includes cutting Southwark Life magazine to save £724,000. Renegotiating call centre contract – £1.5m savings
  • Finance and Resources – Saving £2.6m. Includes saving £923,000 on IT contracts.
  • Children’s Services – Saving  £3.7m. Includes stopping support for After School Clubs.  Cutting Youth Services by £1m.
  • Health & Community – Saving £3.8m. Includes cutting Supporting People Service (job training etc) by £2m and cutting support for mental health problem by £650,000. Home Help charges to rise sharply.
  • Environment, Safety and Culture – Saving £1.8m. Includes raising cemetery and crematorium charges and the cost of parking permits for polluting or families with more than one car per household.
  • Communities, Law and Governance – Saving £992,000. Includes cutting admin support for councillors and money spent of lawyers.
  • Other Services. Includes halving the number of Community wardens, Street Cleaning reduced from daily to every other day, Charities to take over running of Borough’s Day Centres. Review of library services.

Power to the people! The new Localism Bill – will it really empower local communities?

A landmark bill that claims to herald a ground-breaking shift in power to councils and communities overturning decades of central government control was unveiled by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles today.

Here is the coalition government’s press release in full:

The Localism Bill will put an end to the hoarding of power within central government and top-down control of communities, allowing local people the freedom to run their lives and neighbourhoods in their own way.

The Bill, laid before Parliament today, contains a radical package of reforms that will devolve greater power and freedoms to councils and neighbourhoods, establish powerful new rights for communities, revolutionise the planning system, and give communities control over housing decisions.

The legislation will help build the Big Society by radically transforming the relationships between central government, local government, communities and individuals.

For councils the Bill will fundamentally change their freedom to act in the interest of their local communities through a new general power of competence. Rather than needing to rely on specific powers, the new power will give councils the legal reassurance and confidence to innovate, drive down costs to deliver more efficient services.

Eric Pickles said:

“The Localism Bill will herald a ground-breaking shift in power to councils and communities overturning decades of central government control and starting a new era of people power.

“It is the centrepiece of what this Government is trying to do to fundamentally shake up the balance of power in this country. For too long, everything has been controlled from the centre – and look where it’s got us. Central government has kept local government on a tight leash, strangling the life out of councils in the belief that bureaucrats know best.

“By getting out of the way and letting councils and communities run their own affairs we can restore civic pride, democratic accountability and economic growth – and build a stronger, fairer Britain. It’s the end of the era of big government: laying the foundations for the Big Society.”

The Localism Bill contains further measures to strengthen local democracy by:

  • Devolving significant new powers to councils – In a major transfer of power from Whitehall to town halls, councils will be freed from bureaucratic constraints with new freedoms and flexibilities to act in the best interests of their area. Councillors will have to approve and be required to publish new chief executive pay rules at full Council that management will have to follow. Councillors will no longer be prevented from voting on campaign issues; and there will be a new power to create directly elected mayors in 12 cities giving residents a say in a strong democratically elected leader;
  • Establishing powerful new rights for local people and communities – powers for councils are accompanied by greater powers for local people to hold their local authorities to account. Local people and communities’ will have real power and a bigger say over their area through a new right to challenge to take over services; a new right to bid to buy local assets such as libraries, pubs and shops; the a new right to veto excessive council tax rises through a referendum. Bin tax laws repealed;
  • Radically reforming planning – Ministers believe the current planning system is too centralised and bureaucratic, too adversarial and remote from the communities it affects. The Bill will restore democratic and local control over planning by replacing the Infrastructure Planning Commission with an efficient and democratically accountable system for major infrastructure. The Bill will enable regional planning to be swept away and in its place neighbourhood plans will become the new building blocks of the planning system where communities have the power to grant planning permission if a local majority are in favour;
  • Making housing fairer and more democratic – The Bill will return decision-making powers on housing to local councils and communities through a new Community Right to Build giving communities the freedom they need in order to come together to build new homes & amenities in their towns & villages. Home Information Packs will be formally scrapped. The Bill will put councils in charge of allocation and tenure of social housing, giving councils the flexibility to use their social housing stock to the maximum effect and reduce waiting lists., It will be easier for social tenants to relocate though a new National Homeswap Scheme, and councils will be able to offer flexible solutions to people at risk of homelessness. The Housing Revenue Account Subsidy System will be replaced with a more transparent system that serves local communities. Tenants will be able to scrutinise the services offered by their landlords and hold them to account. The Tenant Services Authority will be abolished but its vital economic regulation functions will be preserved.
  • Creating powerful incentives for economic growth – The Bill will give local government a stronger financial stake in the local economy, helping rebalance the economy, so it is more entrepreneurial and attracts local business by allowing local authorities to grant discretionary business rate discounts; making small business tax breaks easier take advantage of; giving affected businesses a greater say in rate supplements and cancelling certain backdated business rates including port taxes;

Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark said:

“This Bill will provide the enduring legislative foundation for a new, decentralised Britain, where power is returned to the people to which it belongs. We believe that communities should have the freedom to manage their own affairs in their way, and be empowered, not suppressed, by Government. The Bill will enact new rights allowing local people to shape and influence the places where they live, revolutionising the planning process by passing power down to those who know best about their neighbourhoods.”

Housing Minister Grant Shapps added:

“With housebuilding at its lowest peacetime level since 1924, the time is right for radical shake up of the entire system. The Bill will end top-down targets – in their place communities with the vision and drive to build more homes will be given the freedom to achieve their ambitions, and this will be backed up with powerful cash incentives for councils that allow new development in their area.

“With five million people languishing on social housing waiting lists, social housing is ripe for reform. Councils will now be able to manage social housing in a way that genuinely meets the needs of local people, and will be able to offer fixed tenancies that give people the helping hand they need, for as long as they need it.”

Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell said:

“The Localism Bill will pave the way for the long overdue push of powers out of Whitehall to councils and neighbourhoods across the country, and give local communities real control over housing and planning decisions.

“Local facilities have been closing down all over the country, leaving towns and villages without vital services.

“Small community groups that are willing to take over local assets often find that they lack the time and resources to get a plan together and compete with the might and muscle of big business and developers.

“The powerful new rights in the Bill will put real power in the hands of real people, empowering local communities and putting them at the heart of local decision making.”


1. Ministers have already started giving councils greater financial freedom, by devolving and streamlining £7 billion more of government funding, removing burdens and bureaucratic controls so that they can prioritise budgets to support public services in ways which meet the priorities of local people and communities, helping to manage demand on services so they are more personalised and effective for vulnerable groups thereby reducing costs to society.

2. The Government also wants to create a new era of accountability and openness where bureaucratic accountability is replaced by democratic accountability. Putting more data in the public domain is central in making this happen and will drive smarter spending.

3. Getting council business out in the open will revolutionise local government and help facilitate the Big Society. Councils are now expected to publish all expenditure over £500 online. Local people should be able to hold their council to account. Greater openness and transparency is absolutely critical to root out waste and inefficiency.

4. General Power of Competence: Local Authorities are creatures of statute – they only have the power to do what Parliament has authorised them to do – unlike a natural person that can do anything except where that power to act is curtailed by law. Since local authorities were first incorporated power has been given to them on a piecemeal basis. Now, with General Power of Competence, local authorities can basically act in that same way as a natural person, except where restricted by statute such as creating a new tax.

5. The Government has today also published Decentralisation and the Localism Bill: an essential guide. Its sets out six actions central government will need to take to achieve and maintain the radical shift in power, – in behaviour, expectation, and culture – which must go alongside the changes in law proposed in the Bill. The guide to can be found at:

6. Additional detail on specific Bill measures can be found at: (Word, 67kb).

Forest Hill School falls £1m into debt

Forest Hill School in Mayow Road reported a £615,000 loss last year and the school expects to lose a further £557,000 this year. This startling news was given to Lewisham Mayor and Cabinet at their meeting on the 1st December. 

The school was recently rebuilt under a PFI budget and the school had overestimated the income they would receive under the terms of that budget. The school  also found that the arrangement where they managed the shared sports facilities on behalf of the council unsustainable, and Lewisham has now assumed direct management of these facilities.

 The M&C agreed that Forest Hill School should have a licensed deficit budget of £557,000 this year on condition that the school brings the budget back into a surplus position within a three year period. The maximum period in law allowed for a secondary school to be in deficit is 5 years. 

The school aims bring its finances back into line by making the following cuts: 

  • The Senior Leadership Team by one post
  • The teaching staff by 1.4 FTE
  • 2.6 FTE Learning Support Assistants
  • A Learning Mentor has been identified for redundancy.
  • Several experienced teachers have been replaced with teachers on lower points, while Recruitment and Retention Incentives have been withdrawn
  • Lunchtime Supervisors have been reduced in number by 4.
  • Following a resignation, two posts have been amalgamated while one administrative post (0.6) has been identified for redundancy.
  • Reducing the working week to 25 periods.

Forest Hill School has a high reputation locally and a strong academic record. Last year, 50% of pupils achieved five or more GCSEs Grade C or above including English and Maths – results which are above the national average.


For details of the report to Mayor& Cabinet see:

Abandoned dogs – a growing problem in Lewisham

A report to Lewisham’s Mayor and Cabinet highlights the alarming growth in abandoned dogs in the borough and the escalating cost of rounding up these stray pooches and paying for them to be boarded in kennels.

The Mayor and Cabinet meeting on 17 November will hear that the borough’s environmental team paid a bill of £100,000 in 2009-10 to  round up strays and pay for kennelling – £79,000 more than they had budgeted for.

In 2008-9 the number of  abandoned dogs rounded up by the council was 223; in 2009-10 this had mushroomed to 532 – an increase of 142%.

 Battersea Dogs’ Home is currently inundated with strays, so the council has had to pay high fees for the private kennelling of the borough’s abandoned dogs.

This year to date, the number of stray dogs has remained at 2009-10 levels.

D-Day for Lewisham council cuts

Lewisham is facing cuts from its budget amounting to between £50-60m over the next three financial years. At the Mayor and Cabinet meeting on the 17 November the Mayor and Cabinet is expected to approve the first tranche of these cuts – £19.78m over three years plus a further £12.7m savings where consultation with staff and public are currently taking place.


A decision on closing five Lewisham libraries has been postponed for two months pending further investigations on “alternative community library proposals” and the cost of moving to these alternatives (see ).

Here are some of the cuts expected to be approved at the meeting:

  •  Severely cutting the borough’s economic development unit with the loss of 22 jobs, meaning that there will be no community business support and no town centre managers
  • Reducing the number of flower beds in parks – a saving of £30,000
  • The financial control department to reduce cost and staff saving £943,000
  • Corporate communication department’s budget to be cut by £97,000 (£64,000 of this to be saved by cutting Lewisham Life from 10 issues per year to six)
  • Reduce park investment by £396,000 which will mean fewer Green Parks, hanging baskets and street planting
  • Head of strategy department to be cut – savings £70,000; loss of three posts
  • No more spraying of weeds on streets and pavements saving £50,000
  • Saving £170,000 by reducing the amount of printing and photocopying by borough
  • IT savings of £1.3m by sharing services with Bromley council; IT data services to save a further £200,000
  • Mayor’s Fund (giving grants to local wards) cut by 25%; Local Assembly grants budget cut by £45,000 and admin costs for LA cut by £31,000
  • Close Clyde Children’s Centre (Deptford) and reduce budgets of Early Years Centres in Rushey Green, Honor Oak and Ladywell to save £2.1m
  • Reduce Lewisham’s contribution to Arts and Brodway Theatre by £43,000; One Lewisham Funs for Arts support also reduced by £25,000
  • Cut Lewisham’s contribution to borough’s Police Support Team by £125,000 (currently £250,000) resulting in “changes to PCSO deployment” . Note – this was postponed by M&C on the night
  • £450,000 cut in “Valuing People Agenda” (due to personal care packages scheme for elderly and disabled currently being proposed by central government); some savings could be gained by closing existing day care centres
  • A £22.84 charge to households for replacing lost, damaged or stolen wheely bins. Note – this was postponed by M&C on the night
  • £63,000 cut in waste advisors who encourage recycling
  • A reduction in the strategy and performance division saving £278,000
  • Amalgamating the community safety service and the community wardens service to create three area based neighbourhood safety teams and reduce staffing – saving £811,000

For full details of proposed cuts see:


Lewisham Council cuts – 446 staff to go

Lewisham Council has written to Town Hall unions warning them that 446 staff jobs are to disappear in the next three years as cuts start to bite.

Management jobs will be at the forefront of cut backs.

The agenda of the  Mayor and Cabinet  meeting on November 17 carries a report which warns that 195 jobs – 43% of the total –  will go from the Resources Directorate which deals with finance, corporate policy, the executive office, procurement, personnel management, legal services, strategy and IT. The report warns that  “the Authority is currently considering Phase 1 revenue budget savings proposals of some £19.8m for 2011/14, of which £13.7m relates to 2011/12. …… Should all the Phase 1 proposals be agreed, it is likely that this will result in up to 195 posts being deleted. This will inevitably result in substantial redundancy costs which will need to be financed corporately and via the use of directorate resources. “