The meeting was adjourned from 19.05 to 19.10 following disturbance from the public gallery.
The Deputy Leader (Finance and Investment), Councillor Paul McGlone, introduced the report and detailed the following:
· Lambeth faced an unprecedented financial challenge and even increased council tax to 1.99% and the 2% precept would not be enough to fill the funding gap. The report also detailed the general and capital investment funds for the next three years.
· There had been tough choices following an estimated core funding cut of 56% between 2010/11 to 2017/08 which would impact front line services, whereas previous cuts still enabled the delivery of core services.
· There was a £16.12m overspend in the general fund, with a further £28.32m savings in 2016/17 which would rise to £55m savings needed over the following three years.
· Even though Lambeth was the 29th most deprived borough in the UK, it had the 13th highest level of cuts since 2010.
· There were some positive economic indicators, but overall it showed a central government committed to reducing all expenditure centred on a small state ideology, with a focus on shrinking local government; and presented an unprecedented financial challenge.
· There were also greater needs placed on the Council, such as the increasing costs of temporary accommodation; however, Lambeth was working hard to cut costs, with over 1000 fewer staff than in 2010, moving more services online and by cutting down on fraud.
Christina Thompson, Director of Finance, emphasised that the level of earmarked reserves and balances remained one of the lowest in London, but they were at a safe level and contingencies had been factored for. However, risks would need to be managed given the significant level of savings next year.
The Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Councillor Jane Pickard, commented on youth and play and noted that it was always the Council’s intention to end the Early Adopter Phase 1 funding in 2016. In addition, the Council had lined up alternative providers, children supporters and co-ops which were thriving and these strategies saved programmes and operations from being closed. As an example of what could be achieved when sites were outsourced into the voluntary sector, one of Lambeth’s adventure playgrounds had won a bid for lottery funding to enable it to open for three days instead of one day per week.
The Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Councillor Jackie Meldrum, noted that health and social care budgets were linked, however central government did not believe in meeting the needs of this public service and were redistributing for 2020. As the 29th most deprived borough, Lambeth was dependent on increasing business rates and council taxes, with the 2% precept to adult social care a drop in ocean against the cuts. The £3.43m savings from adult staffing and contract efficiencies were significant, although a number of projects were integrating to save funds and were beginning to show real progress. However, how services would be delivered in 2020 was a different matter and there was no certainty of what services would be available.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Lib Peck, stated that these would be challenging years for local government, and it was unclear what the organisation would look like by 2020. The 56% cut was huge considering that Lambeth was the 29th most deprived authority, and it was sensible to raise income and investment to fill gaps in funding. However, the 2% adult social care precept and the 1.99% council tax rise were nowhere close to bridging this gap. Therefore greater efficiencies and back-office cost cuts where needed and regrettably the Council would lose a lot of staff, some 500 between 2016/17 and 2017/18. There had been 4,000 staff in 2010, with 1,000 likely to be lost by 2020, and this would impact on front line services. The Council would mitigate this by reconfiguring to work with services users such as providing more independence and care choices for the elderly, or working with the community to deliver amenities instead of shutting them down. It remained a very challenging time.
1) To recommend Council to note or adopt the recommendations listed below.
2) To approve the disposal of the properties identified as ‘new disposals’ in Appendix 8a and Appendix 8b – (exempt from disclosure).
3) That the views of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (from the meeting of 4 February 2016) be noted.