September 22 2014 Latest news:
by Jon Dean
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Confusion surrounds a leaked document which details a swathe of potential closures across Islington – including half the borough’s libraries, a swimming pool and a much-loved ecology centre.
The confidential report – called Future Shape to 2018 – was written by the town hall’s most senior directors and included a host of dramatic ways to save cash in the face of further central government cuts.
Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, was quick to rubbish the 150-page document after its contents were revealed in the Gazette, saying it was not shown to councillors and “wasn’t worth the paper it’s printed on”.
But the ruling Labour group has yet to categorically say the cuts in the document are not being considered, or to say definitively that they weren’t discussed by the council’s executive.
Cllr Watts did say Cally Pool, in Caledonian Road – earmarked for closure in the report – was coming to the end of its “natural life” and needed replacing.
But Cllr Paul Convery, executive member and Caledonian ward councillor tweeted that no decision to axe Cally Pool would be taken.
Julian Gregory, the Lib Dem Parlimentary candidate for Islington North, said: “It seems inevitable that at least some leading Labour councillors must have known about these proposed cuts for some time.
“Imagine – could a detailed document like the one leaked last week have been drafted, costed and distributed without any of Labour’s senior elected representatives having sight or knowledge of it?
“With its large majority on the council, there is a real risk of Labour thinking that it can run the borough without any proper scrutiny.”
Cllr Watts said: “The document is an out of date options paper put together by senior council managers for discussions with themselves.
“In difficult circumstances caused by the Tory-led government cutting more than half of the council’s finances, the budget setting process takes months.
“During this time documents like this always get put together at the start, before anything is presented to councillors.
“They often get changed substantially during the process.
“We have been absolutely clear that decisions have not yet been made on how to make the savings necessary that have been forced upon us by the government.
“This document was the worst-case scenario set out by council managers.”
He added during the next six months councillors would try to come up with alternatives to protect vital front line services and any proposals would be announced in advance of agreeing the budget, giving people a chance to have a say on them.
He said: “The draft 2015/16 budget will become public in January before it goes to executive for consideration, and then full council in February for approval.
“Because the budget will be made by councillors and not managers, this is why the document isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
Last week, the Gazette ran a front page story detailing the options set out in a leaked document on proposed ways to cope with cuts to council funding.
The headline and graphic indicated that decisions on cuts to services had already been made, when this was not the case. We are happy to clarify the situation.