At last week’s budget setting meeting of Wandsworth Council, Labour councillors tabled an amendment which would have ensured further budget savings, whilst still protecting valued front-line services.
The Labour group also committed to the freeze on Council Tax this year.Keeping Council Tax frozen is part of Labour’s commitment to easing the burden on hard-working families, whose household budgets are being squeezed by Government cuts and a stagnant economy.
Labour also supports a temporary reversal of the VAT increase introduced by the Tory-led government, which is costing families an extra £450 a year. Likewise, as a key part of Ken Livingstone’s mayoral campaign, Labour is committed to bring the cost of travel down for Londoners.
Labour does not believe that hard-pressed families should pay the price for George Osborne’s poor economic management, which has seen unemployment rocket to the highest level since the last Tory government, and will require an extra £158bn more borrowing than planned over this parliamentary term.
However, committing to a freeze on Council Tax requires clear forward planning, which the Wandsworth Conservative administration fail to do.
We are clear that this decision will guarantee the need to find additional savings within council budgets in coming years, beyond the 28% reduction in funding already handed down by the Government over the next four years
Yet, we do not believe this can be used as an excuse for a further ravaging of front-line services across the Borough. Already we see declining numbers of PCSOs on our streets, libraries closing, and proposals to charge children just to play. All round, services are being slashed.
This is why we have identified additional savings which can be made from the back office and administrative functions of the council, in order to prioritise three key areas of the Council’s work:
- Education and Young People;
- Health and Social Care, and;
- Community Safety.
As a principle, Labour believes in protecting the front-line as a fundamental priority of any sound budget.
Labour is clear that decisions made to cut or otherwise must be part of a cogent plan, and that keeping Council Tax low should not mean that taxpayers should expect less in return.
Cllr Rex Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group said,
“Looking to the future, it is clear that short-term cuts may not always result in an overall saving if they produce long-term costs, something the Tory administration fail to understand.
“A fundamental priority of any sound budget is the need to protect those services with which residents interact every day, and to which service reductions and cuts are felt the hardest. This is especially important where cuts have a detrimental impact on the future economic prospects of the Borough and its residents.
“It is vitally important that we ensure the future prosperity of Wandsworth by maintaining services for young people and their families, by helping create healthy and well-educated future workforce, and by creating a safe and thriving community in which to do achieve this”
Cllr Leonie Cooper, GLA Candidate for Merton and Wandsworth said,
“Like the Mayor of London, the Wandsworth Conservatives prefer to see bonuses and high pay, rather than protection for front-line services.”