Monday, 21 February 2011
How will the cuts impact on you?
Tomorrow (Tuesday February 22), 6:30 p.m., at the Civic Centre we have the most important Council meeting of the year. At this meeting councillors set council tax and the Council budget -- which dictates how much money there is to spend in different areas in the coming financial year. The budget papers are on the Council's website, but are heavy going. So I have worked with Reading Save Our Services to produce the information below summarising how the cuts in Reading will impact on people.
The council meeting is open to members of the public and there will be demonstrations starting at 5 p.m. from various groups -- such as Reading Council for Racial Equality (pictured) -- who will be devastated by these cuts pushed through by the Conservatives with covering fire from the Lib Dems.
Alternatively give your local councillor a call or e-mail informing them which services you would like to see protected.
How much will be cut?
· The Council is looking to make savings of £18.8 million in its budget for next year (2011/12 financial year). The cuts package will hit the most needy and least well off the hardest.
· At an earlier Cabinet meeting it was announced that this will result in the deletion of around 300 posts, with 150 potential compulsory redundancies. £2.2 million will be spent in redundancy payments next year.
· There will be no Council Tax increase in Reading, so no money will be available to offset the cuts by increasing tax locally. The Council is aiming to increase charges for certain services to increase its income by £3.2 million.
· This is just the beginning: the cuts will continue for at least three years and the council intends to continue with “cost reduction and efficiency” and maximising income generation. Assuming the Council continues with its policy of freezing Council Tax, savings of £14.2 million will be needed in 2012/13; £9.2 million in 2013/14; and £12.3 million in 2014/15.
Hitting the neediest hardest
The Council's cuts will hit the least well off and most disadvanted people the hardest. Children, the elderly, and people with special needs will all find that their services and care will be reduced. Examples include:
· Merger of Edward Hughes and Tanfield residential homes and reduced use of other residential accommodation for the elderly will deprive vulnerable pensioners of Council care in their twilight years.
· Eligibility criteria for elderly people and others with social care needs will be tightened drastically, meaning that many with medium and lower level care needs will no longer receive vital care support from the Council.
· Cuts in the Early Years Service will result in a reduction in nursery care and services supporting the youngest children.
· A reduction in school meals subsidy will increase the cost of meals and will reduce meals uptake for those not entitled to free school meals.
· Increased play charges will result in reduced uptake of play schemes and closures of after school and holiday play provision.
· Concessionary bus fares for pensioners will be reorganised so that they can no longer travel free of charge during peak hours.
· Cuts in the Youth Service and Intensive Services and in Prevention and Support Services will mean that services will have to be targetted, resulting in less capacity to respond to areas requiring early intervention and leading to more youth offending and anti-social behaviour.
· A review of Behaviour Services for children with behaviour difficulties will result in increased school exclusions – and increase associated costs.
· Cuts in front line education posts and buyback of services for schools from the Council will lead to reductions in service to vulnerable families.
· Domestic Violence staff levels are to be cut increasing the risks of domestic abuse and leading to abusers escaping the law.
· Transport services for school children, patients, the elderly, and those in care will be reviewed and cut with Readibus, the NHS, and Reading Buses expected to take up the slack.
The Council admits that cuts in its Education and Childrens Services budget will increase social care referrals and costs, increase the need to use expensive agency staff; and divert money away from prevention programmes as demand pressures increase.
From Cleaner and Greener to Leaner and Meaner
· Cuts in Street Care will result in reduced environmental cleansing and graffiti removal.
· Charging for the collection of green waste and big increases in charges for collection of bulky waste mean that an increase in fly tipping and rubbish dumping is likely.
· Cuts in enforcement teams working on Houses in Multiple Occupation, Public Health, Trading Standards, Licensing, and Environmental Health will increase safety and environmental risks for the public. Cuts in planning enforcement and monitoring will enable unscrupulous builders and developers to ignore planning laws.
Rents up and pay frozen
· Council house rents will increase by 4.9% (higher than the inflation rate) bringing the average weekly rent to £89.26.
· Council staff will receive no pay increase in 2011/12.