Council leader: £90million Tory cuts will be catastrophic’

Cllr Richard Watts: Islington will become 'wealthy ghetto'

Cllr Richard Watts: Islington will become 'wealthy ghetto' - Credit: Archant

Poverty-stricken families, slashed services and ‘social cleansing turning borough into wealthy ghetto’, warns Cllr Watts

A bleak future of Islington as “a socially-cleansed ghetto for the wealthy where devastated families struggle against crushing poverty” has been predicted in the wake of the general election.

Following the Conservatives’ thumping win at the polls on Thursday, the town hall now expects a whopping £90million worth of cuts to its budget on top of the £150m already slashed – leaving it with just 40 per cent of cash it had in 2010.

And Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, told the Gazette that means some serious cuts to front line services – although he could not reveal what these might be.

He said: “There is no way of sugar-coating this, it’s going to be really bad.

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“We reckon around £80m or £90m more in cuts – we’ll know for sure at the Comprehensive Spending review.

“We don’t have a secret plan to deal with this – there’s nothing we can whip out to make this easy.

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“The budget we did in February had to deal with a lot of cuts and we hoped that would be the last one. It was not to be.

“There are no two ways about it, we are going to have to cut front line services that people need, that they rely on.

“I don’t want to speculate and worry staff or service users; we will consult before any decisions are made. But things are already cut to the bone. People in this borough are going to pay the price for something they didn’t vote for.”

As well as the cuts to the council coffers, Cllr Watts believes the borough will suffer from new government’s proposed £12billion in welfare cuts, the expansion of the Right to Buy scheme and a proposed to lifetime tenancies

“Those are the three main things the government are talking about that will have a very, very damaging impact on the borough,” he said.

Cllr Watts said forcing housing associations to sell social homes and the introduction of shorter tenancies would amount to “social cleansing in the borough”.

“Young people won’t have a cat in hells chance of staying in Islington unless their parents are rich.

“The borough will very quickly turn into a wealthy ghetto.

“And these huge cuts to the welfare budget will have to mainly come, we think, from working tax credits and disability benefits, which would throw thousands of families into poverty.

“What is practically galling is this is going to hit working families; people who are trying to the right thing.

“It’s not heir fault they have poor wages, it’s their employers fault.”

And he says the council are considering drastic action in a bid to battle what it sees as the “catastrophic” effects of the government’s policies.

“We are ready to fight to protect Islington as mixed community.

“We are considering all our options and have ruled nothing out.

“Non-cooperation, legal challenges - these are things we may use.

“Because these changes could be catastrophic for thousands upon thousands of residents.”

The Prime Minister David Cameron told his new cabinet on Tuesday: “We must also support those who can’t work. As i said on the steps of Dowing Street five years ago, those who can should, those who can’t, we always help.

“That is the principle we should always pursue.”

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