Political parties respond to Tower Hamlets budget cuts of �72m

Tower Hamlets councillors from across the political spectrum responded to plans for a �72m reduction in the council’s budget this week.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman and his cabinet of Independent councillors set out their budget plans on Wednesday, including the first details of �55m cuts to be made from council services and programmes over the next three years.

With the budget still to be approved next month, the budget has been praised and criticised in almost equal measures by councillors.

Labour councillor David Edgar said the extent of the cuts, front-loaded to account for �30m in the next year, was a result of the actions of the Coalition government.

He said: “They’ve decided to cut too much, too fast and to put so much into the first year that it is bad news for Tower Hamlets.

“At the same time, we were working hard on budget proposals to protect front line services while leading the council.

“Many of these proposals such as reducing the use of agency staff and removing some layers of managerial positions seem to have gone into this budget.”

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The Government set a 8.9 per cent reduction in the revenue budget for Tower Hamlets last year.

Though proposals are still to be finalised, cabinet papers reveal a number of measures in response to that, including potentially scrapping 55 full-time posts from in-house home care.

Thirty posts could go as a result of a �2.9m reduction in the children’s centres budget and �1.8m is to be saved by favouring supported housing over residential care for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities.

Day services for people with learning disabilities could also be cut by �1.4m.

Mr Edgar said: “We need to scrutinise some of these proposals, be able to make cases to the Mayor and see how this budget will affect vulnerable people.”

Conservative councillor David Snowdon said the council was right to look for reductions in its use of consultants, its communications budget and its back-office costs.

He said: “We have been proposing alternative budgets since 2006 and only now is the council waking up to some of our points.

“We are still looking for further efficiencies from this budget, such as abolishing East End Life (the council newspaper) and looking at the council’s advertising budgets.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Stephanie Eaton said: “Tower Hamlets has some very good council officers who have been looking at this for 18 months.

“They knew they would be facing tough cuts.

“I think they’ve done a reasonable job but I will be putting forward suggestions to the Mayor.”

A statement from the Respect Party said the budget should not be supported by anyone in Tower Hamlets.

A spokesman said: “It seems that officials have only one response - �70.2m in cuts led by a policy of redundancies.

“Practically, it will be impossible to deliver anything like the same level of services to residents if the main policy response is redundancies.”