The government has cut Ealing Council’s funding by 64%. This means that for every pound that the council used to receive in government grants, it now gets just 36p. This cut is greater than the UK or London average.
At the same time demand for our services is increasing, especially when it comes to looking after vulnerable children and adults and helping homeless families.
Our funding will continue to shrink. In 2010, 60% of the money that Ealing Council spent on its services, such as caring for vulnerable people, emptying the bins and maintaining roads and parks came from government grants. Continued austerity means that by 2021 our grant will completely disappear and all our funding will come from council tax, business rates and fees and charges.
At the December cabinet meeting yesterday (Tuesday 11 December), councillors heard that, despite making millions of pounds in savings in previous years, the council is facing a £57million gap in its budget by 2021. This is more than double Ealing’s total annual budget for children centres, libraries, street cleaning, rubbish and recycling collections combined.
They agreed to make savings that will close this gap by £12.3million and to look at more savings in the coming months. Most of these have been achieved through being more efficient, increasing the council’s income and helping people at an earlier stage so fewer turn to the council in crisis.
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for finance and leisure, said: “”We’ve seen nearly two-thirds of our money gone, with only 36p for every £1 we used to receive in 2010, we’re having to rethink how we deliver our services completely. If this happened in your own home, you’d start by looking at savings to your utility or shopping bills, maybe downgrading the vehicle you have, but at these levels, you’d be worried whether you could afford to pay the basic bills at all, whether you could keep your vehicle and continue to live in your home.
“In Ealing, we have announced efficiency savings every year since 2010. And through our Future Ealing programme, we are working to improve people’s lives and adapt to the changes in our circumstances by focussing on preventing problems and being more efficient, but we know that this isn’t enough.”
Through its Future Ealing programme, the council is transforming services to get better results for people, despite less money. A lot of this work relies on better use of digital technology, taking action in different ways to prevent problems, having fewer staff, including senior management, and encouraging local people to do more to support community-run services.
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of the council, explained: “We must live within our means and present a balanced budget, and the size of the council’s financial challenges means that we must work differently.
“The good news is that we are investing in ways to make life better for our residents, such as delivering 2500 genuinely affordable homes in the borough and helping older people to stay independent for longer, but there are also going to be some tough decisions coming up and more savings will be announced in early 2019.
“We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities and are carefully considering how we can use our scarce resources wisely to protect the people and communities that need them most.”
Further savings proposals will be announced in January.