Cllr Tim Windle’s Budget speech on children’s centres, the false claim that Lambeth’s low reserves can stop Tory cuts and the weaknesses of the Green budget…
Theresa May’s pledge to end austerity last October feels like a hollow promise.
But there are things that we can be proud of in this Budget despite the cuts,
- we have protected spending on child and adolescent mental health services,
- we have protected spending on benefits advice,
- and we have protected spending on services combating violence against women.
Tragically, we haven’t been able to protect everything from these Central Government imposed cuts.
Children’s centres have become so much more than they were when they were created.
Yes, they contribute to early intervention and reduce inequality, but;
- children’s centres are a focal point of the community including language classes and clothes swop shops;
- children’s centres reduce social isolation for mothers and for those who have moved to a new area or even a new country;
- and children’s centres are not just a council service but an important part of a young child’s routine and even a part of their family.
All of these benefits are priceless.
Nobody is happy with the decision we have to make.
While nobody is happy, from my experience of speaking to residents, I’m amazed by how people are understanding.
And I find the most understanding are those people in the community who are most affected by these changes.
Discussion at my local Larkhall Children’s Centre did not focus on the centre’s closure, but on how we can ensure that the important services it provides are not completely lost.
And they won’t be.
Between remaining centres, a re-opening Larkhall Park One O’Clock Club and the fact that the Larkhall Children’s Centre site will continue to be used to provide for children, I am confident that we can continue to meet the needs of our community in Larkhall.
I think it’s important to thank and recognise the work that Cllr Brathwaite, Cllr Pickard and council officers have done to engage with residents during this consultation.
This change to children’s centres comes as a direct result of the Government’s changes to the Dedicated Schools Grant.
This Government change leaves a £1.4m hole in our children centre’s funding.
Yes, we could fill this funding from elsewhere, but I have yet to hear anyone suggest an alternative council service that should be cut.
Some have suggested that we fund this from council reserves.
I used to work at CIPFA so I know that reserves are not a sustainable or responsible source for this funding.
Reserves are a rainy day fund, while it feels like it has been raining for the past 9 years we cannot run down reserves for the continuation of services.
Especially when there is so much uncertainty.
- Uncertainty over the Government’s next Spending Review and future local government funding;
- uncertainty over our future relationship with the European Union;
- and uncertainty on what that relationship will mean for local residents, local businesses and the local economy.
We’ve had 9 years of rainy days, but the risk of torrential downpour is just around the corner.
With growing uncertainty there is growing risk and with growing risk we must grow our reserves in order to meet that risk.
As I finish I want to address the idea of a Workplace Parking Levy.
Given everything I have just said we need to explore any innovative idea to generate income. But this idea hasn’t been explored beyond the back of a napkin.
- We don’t know that this will generate £1 million pounds;
- we don’t know what impact this would have on pollution;
- and we don’t know what impact this will have on our residents.
Given the location of schools in the borough, we know many teaching assistants drive to work.
The last thing we want is to introduce a £400 tax on teaching assistants and other key workers.
This idea isn’t ready yet but it merits exploration, if it proves to be a good idea then I hope the whole Council will come together to support it.