Around Ealing February/March 2019 - Page 4

UP FRONT: BUDGET Cuts force more change The council will set its 2019/20 budget in February, including council tax bills for the year ahead. It is considering a number of savings proposals, including changes to children’s centres and libraries. A fter years of significant and sustained cuts, the council has lost 64% of its government grant since 2010. This means that for every pound in government funding it used to receive, it now gets just 36p. At the same time, demand for services like social care is higher than it has ever been. In the face of these financial pressures, the council has already agreed plans to reduce its senior management team. LIBRARIES It is also considering changes to its libraries. The council will consult with residents on a plan to directly manage six of its 13 libraries, changing their opening hours so they are open at times when they are most used. The remaining seven could become community-managed if interested groups or residents come forward with workable proposals and agree to take on their long-term management. This approach has been successfully used by other local authorities and the 4 around ealing    February 2019 government cuts council has started discussions with some interested local groups. CHILDREN’S CENTRES Children’s centres could also change. Ealing currently has seven main centres and 20 smaller, linked sites. The council intends to consult residents on an idea that would keep the seven main centres as they are, while nine of the smaller sites would either stay the same or be enhanced. Council services at the remaining 11 sites would be reduced, although childcare provided by others would remain. The council would work to maintain other services, such as early health care, wherever possible, although a few of the smaller linked centres could close. If the changes were to go ahead, Ealing would still have more children’s centres than most other London boroughs. CLOSING THE FUNDING GAP Councillor Jasbir Anand, cabinet member for business and community services, said: “These are not easy decisions, but with government cuts of this magnitude, we are forced to look with fresh eyes at how we operate and carefully consider how best to serve the people and areas that need our services most. For both the library service and our children’s centres, we have taken into account important factors such as local need, accessibility and geographical spread across the borough.” The initial proposals could save as much as £1.95million by 2021. This, alongside the £12.3million savings announced in December, would help to further close the £57million gap in the council’s budget. This gap is more than double Ealing’s total annual budget for children’s centres, libraries, street cleaning, rubbish and recycling collections combined. £57m budget gap CONSULTATIONS Public consultations on these proposals are expected to begin in February. They will appear online at www.ealing.gov.uk/consultations