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Islington Council pass budget cutting 188 jobs but saving ‘key services’

PUBLISHED: 12:56 01 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:37 01 March 2015

Islington Town Hall

Islington Town Hall

Anna Bruce

Councillors blamed “the worst, most right wing government in recent memory” as they cut 188 jobs to cope with a £37million budget reduction.

Leader of the Labour-run town hall Cllr Richard Watts said that he was “still delivering”, while saying he was “truly sorry” to those who were set to suffer under the budget that was passed by 47 votes to one at full council on Thursday last week.

Prior to the meeting dozens of protestors, many of them council employees set to lose their jobs, held a rally against the cuts and accused the town hall of giving in to the government’s austerity agenda.

Cllr Andy Hull, executive member for finance, said: “We will allow the grass to grow and the potholes to go unfilled if it means we can protect our social services or safeguard our children’s centres.

As reported in the Gazette in May a number of crucial services such as libraries, leisure centres and the PlusBus for disabled residents had been weighed up by council officers as potential casualties. Councillor Hull said these were safe for now, but could not make promises should further strains be put on the budget.

“Many of Islington’s residents rely on the essential services the council provides, he said. Our priority in setting this budget has been to protect those services – libraries, leisure centres, swimming pools, children’s centres and adult social care,” he said.

My fear is that we will not be able to sustain these services if government cuts continue on this scale.”

Councillors were criticised for cutting back in departments such as the income maximisation team which helps elderly and disabled residents. Paul Murphy, who works on the “IMAX team” but is set to lose his job, said the staff’s value to residents – which he estimated at £2million a year – far outweighed the £150,000 the council would save by axing staff.

“We would like to see councillors challenge austerity and stand up with the community and work force of Islington,” he said.

Cllr Caroline Russell, the council’s Green party opposition, suggested the labour party pay for their own media advisors to save the jobs.

Cllr Russell said: “It is extremely worrying that the Islington Labour Party is prepared to lose eight vital members of the teams that provide benefits advice to our residents whilst keeping hold of their own political officers and ‘spin doctors’. It amazes me that they think it’s acceptable that tax payers should foot the bill and pay for Labour Party officers when we’re all facing unfair and savage austerity cuts.”

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