Town hall pledge not to cut front line services despite £26million budget deduction

Cllr Richard Watts

Cllr Richard Watts - Credit: Archant

Families in Islington will not see a cut to front line services despite the government “declaring war” on the borough – councillors have promised.

The town hall released its proposed budget for 2014-15 on Monday, detailing where a £26millon shortfall in funding would be made up compared to last year’s spending.

The council has said by “trimming the fat” and making services more efficient, they are set to maintain the current quality of provision, despite seeing a £127m (35 per cent) real terms reduction in funding in the last four years.

Plans were also unveiled to spend £2.5m to help residents fight against the fuel crisis, with around 2,000 homes expected to save, in some cases, more than £300 a year, while it was announced that council tax will be frozen again.

Labour leader Cllr Richard Watts said: “We’re pretty confident this year that service cuts will only affect back office staff and that we can do the same amount of work with fewer people.

“Where before there might have been a team of 10 people doing a job, now we have four or five, but if we have to slim down again it just won’t be achievable.”

Against last year’s budget Islington Council is planning to make savings of almost £8m in housing and adult social services and close to £4m in child services – savings that councillors claim dwarf those forced on other local authorities.

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Cllr Andy Hull, executive member for finance and performance, said: “Despite a 35pc cut in funding in the last four years, we’ve not had the big headline closures that other councils have had and we’re very proud of that.

“It’s almost like the government has declared war on Islington, the way they have been cutting our budget.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, Cllr Terry Stacy, refuted the council’s claim that it was being treated more harshly by the coalition government than elsewhere.

He said: “Islington receives the seventh highest amount of government grant per household in the whole country, and, taking council tax into account, has the sixth highest amount to spend per household.

“No fewer than 211 (out of 354) other councils are facing a bigger cut in the ‘handouts’ they get from central government next year.

“We’d all like more money but the country is recovering from the worst financial crisis in living memory.”

The £2.5m capital project to increase energy efficiency will see 304 homes fitted with solid wall insulation, with a potential £245-a-year saving each, and 700 new energy efficient boilers for homes that will each save £145-a-year.

Another 800 homes near Bunhill Energy Centre are set to see energy bills £320 below the London average as the council freezes rates.

The council’s innovation in the energy field will also see projected gains of £50,000 for passing on its expertise to other councils.

The other new capital project in the budget proposal is a £2.5m expansion of the planned Moreland School scheme, in order to deal with the increasing demand for school places in the South of the borough.

The budget goes before the executive at the town hall on January 14 and will be reviewed twice at the beginning of February before the final report is looked at by the full council.