This evening, Lewisham Council will set the budget for next year. In the face of savage Tory cuts we are being forced to increase Council Tax. We don’t do this lightly, but we believe that it is the right thing to do to protect vital public services from Tory cuts.
Years of Tory austerity have hit Lewisham Council and Lewisham’s community hard. Since 2010, the Tory Government -; with the support of the Lib Dems -; has cut its funding for Lewisham Council by over half. And they are planning yet deeper cuts in the coming years -; by 2020, Government funding will have been cut by 63%. Yet at the same time, demand for Council services in Lewisham has been increasing, driven by a growing and ageing population.
With demand rising and savage cuts to our funding, the Council has been hit hard. Next year, the Council budget will be £233 million. Had our funding risen in line with demand since 2010, our budget would have been £423 million. With the Council being forced to find nearly £200 million of savings, we have seen the number of employees fall by almost half -; from 4,000 in 2010 to around 2,000 today.
Over the years, Lewisham Council has sought to keep Council Tax as low as possible in order to protect residents suffering from the squeeze on living standards. But as a result of these huge cuts in our funding, the Council has been forced to increase Council Tax this year in order to protect public services as much as possible. Next year, Council Tax will increase by 3.99% in Lewisham. This will represent a rise of just 89p a week for a Band D property. But this will generate nearly £4 million of funding to mitigate the impact of the huge Tory cuts.
Even in these tough times, Lewisham Council is still able to make a real difference:
– This year we will exempt care leavers aged under 25 from Council Tax altogether.
– We are proud that Lewisham was the first Living Wage Council in the country, and we will continue to pay the Living Wage and promote fair pay across the borough.
– We will continue to build the council and affordable homes that we need across the borough to tackle the Tory housing crisis.
Councillor Kevin Bonavia, Cabinet Member for Resources, said;
“Lewisham has been especially hard hit by Tory government cuts. Despite this, our priority as a Labour Council will always be to protect our most vulnerable residents as much as we can. Our help this year to care-leavers through council tax relief builds on our work to ensure we are a London Living Wage Council and that we are building more homes for our homeless families.
“The Tory Government’s failed austerity agenda -; inflicted on us with the support of the Lib Dems – have hit Lewisham Council hard. Our public services, including from this Council which is now half the size it was in 2010, cannot take much more of these brutal cuts. We need to send a message to the Tories in our next election on 3 May that they must end the cuts and help restore public services for the many.”