Cranbrook Estate meeting provides opportunity to quiz deputy mayor on cuts

In a small community room in the Cranbrook Estate, Bethnal Green, deputy mayor Ohid Ahmed faced up to a tough grilling from teachers, home care workers and union members last night.

The councillor made an appearance at the ‘Hands Off Our Public Services’ meeting in the estate’s Tenants Hall to talk over the council’s proposed new budget, which is set to lose �70m of its funding.

He said the council had been left with a stark choice of saving services or saving jobs because of the cuts to their revenue budget from central government.

As a result, he said he couldn’t promise that there wouldn’t be job losses, Estimates on the numbers of staff to be made redundant range from 200 to 500 by April, with Mr Ahmed insisting the lower figure was the more accurate.

He said: “The position we are in is unavoidable.

“We are trying to protect frontline services as much as possible.”

An audience of around 20 people also heard from Michael Clarke, a home care supervisor, who works at Albert Jacobs House in Roman Road.

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The home care service which helps elderly and disabled people with day-to-day tasks will be cut by �3.7m in the next three years with 55 jobs to go.

He said: “I don’t think you can have a more frontline service than washing and dressing people.”

The council is planning to switch to a reablement service which a spokeswoman said ‘aims to help residents regain confidence and relearn skills that they may have lost after ill-health, an accident, hospitalisation or the onset of disability.”

Amanda Bentham, who works in the council’s learning support service based in English Street, Mile End, said it is facing a 15% funding cut and a loss equivalent to 8.8 posts.

Learning support teachers work with vulnerable children with a range of difficulties including hearing, language and behaviour.

She said: “Morale is already low and now people will be over-stretched and over-worked.”

Len Aldiss, representing the National Pensioner’s Convention, called on the group to join the borough’s students in a national march in central London on January 29. He said: “I was pleased to join in the last march.

“The students have shown us the way, we need to follow them closely.”