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Democracy, Finance and money

Public meetings held as council issues grave warning on government settlement

Public meetings are being held next week where residents can put their views on how Lambeth should respond to the budget cuts it is facing.

The first public meeting will take place on Tuesday 18 January 2011 from 7-9pm at Lambeth Town Hall Assembly Rooms. The second meeting will be at Nettlefold Hall in West Norwood from 1-3pm on Saturday 22 January. The meetings will be attended by senior council officers and councillors. Residents can also contribute to this year’s budget consultation by emailing comments to yourchoice@lambeth.gov.uk.

Due to limited spaces people need to register your interest in the event as otherwise we cannot guarantee you a space. You can do this online at http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/budgetconsultation, via email consultation@lambeth.gov.uk or via phone 020 7926 0866.

Councils across the country have been hit with tough savings targets as the Government looks to reduce spending across the board. For Lambeth that means cutting £79 million on top of tens of millions of savings that have already been implemented and identified.

The council gets the majority of its money from central government and with deep cuts in the amount being handed out to local authorities Lambeth faces an uphill task to balance the books. Leader of the Council, Cllr Steve Reed, says that services will inevitably suffer and has launched a poster campaign to encourage people to let the council know which services are most important to residents.

He said: “The settlement from the Government is worse than anyone predicted and we are being asked to provide services for Lambeth with much less money than we had expected. We knew it was going to be difficult and so we had already saved £30 million through a pay freeze, reducing waste and job cuts. Unfortunately, having to find an extra £79 million on top of those savings means the situation we now find ourselves in is much more serious than anyone expected and the only way to plug the funding gap will be to cut services.”

The council’s finances are being put under even greater pressure as the Government is asking for a higher proportion of the £79 million savings to be found this year compared to future years. Councillor Reed is determined to include the public in decisions about where to make further savings. This year the council will have £37 million less to spend on services than it had last year.

He said: “It’s vital that we get the message out that cuts are on the way in Lambeth. Over the last 12 months we have done our best to protect services despite the very difficult economic circumstances. However this year will be different and I want residents to understand that they will see changes to their services this year.

“It is crucial that people have their say on what services are important to them and that is why we are holding two public meetings this month. Senior council officers and cabinet members will be there and we want to hear all your suggestions about how council services should be run.”

The meetings will be using ‘open space methodology’ which means participants set the agenda on the day to discuss the issues that matter most to them. This is different from a traditional public meeting where the council decides what the meeting will focus on.

The kinds of issues you might choose to cover include:

  • What services you think must be protected at all costs and why?
  • Which services you think could be reduced or have fees introduced or increased?
  • How should the council respond to the budget cuts it is facing?
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