Today, Lambeth council has published its budget for the next year, at a time of major uncertainty for the UK due to Brexit and for local councils due to the government’s austerity agenda. As a councillor since 2014, dealing with central government cuts has become a sad reality of setting our budget. But I can’t remember a time when councils have had to do so when the future is so uncertain.
The embarrassing failure of this government to so far secure and pass a Brexit deal means the UK is hurtling towards a damaging No Deal exit from the EU, putting jobs and our economy at risk. For a local council like Lambeth, that means planning for the worst and ensuring we can provide the services our most vulnerable residents will rely on. The Brexit crisis has paralysed Westminster, meaning that we are in the extraordinary position of setting a budget without even knowing how much money we will receive from the government for the next financial year (starting in just 9 weeks’ time).
And in December, we discovered that the government is to change the funding formula for councils next year so that it takes money away from Labour councils in poorer areas like Lambeth to give it to the wealthier Tory shires. That’s outrageous – and we’ll work with other Labour councillors to fight them all the way.
So while we have published a balanced budget with a clear plan today, we know that the future may change very quickly in the next few weeks and months. That’s why it’s even more important that we’ve placed our Labour values at the heart of what we do, and why it’s vital that Lambeth has a Labour council that will stand up for our residents.
In this budget, we have:
- Invested an additional £500k next year, and an extra £1 million in the year after, in tackling serious youth violence, which blights our community and endangers our young people. I’m proud that Lambeth isleading the way in fighting this scourge on our borough
- Introduced a business rates discount scheme for local firms that follow Lambeth council’s lead and pay the London Living Wage – because everyone deserves a decent wage for a hard day’s work
- Protected spending on child and adolescent mental health, benefits advice and violence against women and girls services
- After listening to the 4,000 residents who responded to our budget consultation and to Labour party members at our branch meetings, we have scrapped plans to make savings in our library service.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some really difficult choices that we’ve had to make – Tory austerity means that is unavoidable. And we have had to increase council tax by 2.99%, to help prevent even further cuts.
But I believe the choices we’ve made reflect the values that our residents and you want from a Labour council – and in these greatly uncertain times, our pledge to you is that we’ll keep standing up for Lambeth residents.
Cllr Andy Wilson, Cabinet Member for Finance