Islington Council cuts continue

A further �16 million looks set to be saved next year by the council as it continues to tackle the huge shortfall in funding from central government.

Islington Council has already started planning what cuts it will make during the next financial year – which begins in April 2012 – with general maintenance across the borough as well as some services set to suffer and council tax likely to rise.

Some �100 million needs to be clawed back by the council over the next four years to bridge a gap in funding and additional costs, and just over half was accounted for in the 2011 budget with swingeing cuts across a wide range of services including those for young people and the elderly.

But in a briefing outlining the 2012 budget last week, council leader Catherine West and deputy leader and executive member for finance Richard Greening vowed to protect front-line services wherever possible and to maintain their commitment to protecting children’s centres and keeping libraries open.

They insisted that the vast majority of savings will be made through collaborations with other councils, renegotiating contracts and slashing the numbers of consultants and agency staff.

There will however be a potential rise in council tax and 120 further redundancies on top of the 350 made last year, although at least 50 are expected to be voluntary.

Cllr West said that the council had recently saved �700,000 a year by getting better value for money in IT and environmental-related contracts and a further �1.5million a year by making better use of space and relocating staff, which included the closure of a prime location office near Angel Tube.

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Other savings include collaborating with Camden Council for a shared contract for school meals, saving �900,000, sharing insurance contracts with other boroughs to shave �300,000 off of a previous deal, generating an additional �3 million interest from investments and improving council tax collections and other income to the tune of �2.9million.

The council is also exploring increasing budgets for elderly and vulnerable people to stay at home rather than in care and restricting services such as residents parking permits to the internet.

Cllr West said the visible differences would be less clean streets, gardens maintained on a lower budget and fewer people at the end of the phone in areas like libraries.