Protests as Newham Council backs budget
- Credit: Archant
An “extraordinary” budget was unanimously backed by councillors as tens of campaigners protested against the cuts on Monday night.
As union members from Unite, RMT, and Focus E15 made their voices heard outside East Ham Town Hall, Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales told the full council he was “proud” of their ability to freeze council tax without making cuts to frontline services.
“I don’t believe we are cutting any meaningful services to residents,” he said.
“As long as it’s the quality of the service that matters, that’s what we’ll defend.”
Newham Council has had to make savings of £117m over the past five years, with a further £70m to go by 2020.
But outside the council building, Unite regional officer Michelle Cook said she thought this was the wrong path to take.
“They have a lot of money, they are a cash-rich council and they don’t need to make these cuts,” she said.
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“They need to make alternative arrangements rather than cutting back on services to the community.”
He said using the £300m reserves was a “nonsensical austerity programme”.
“Some people have said that we should dip into the reserves – talk about economically illiterate.” A council spokesman said the “vast majority” of the £300m was “allocated to other services such as schools”.
The budget, which will see council tax frozen after the scrapping of Olympic tax, was applauded by councillors after it was recommended by cabinet on Thursday night.
Part of the budget is the Small Business Programme, which aims to save the council money by creating a number of businesses delivering services to the council while also generating income from additional customers.
As the council celebrated a lack of cuts, Cllr Kay Scoresby reminded the mayor that cuts had been made to Early Years provision including Canning Town North, while Cllr John Whitworth questioned the number of redundancies that would be made at council.
“We don’t know,” answered deputy mayor Cllr Lester Hudson.
“There are a number of positions that we believe will go, but I couldn’t put my hand on my heart to say [how many],” he said, adding that last year “only” 0.03 per cent of employees had been let go.
Councillors also gave the green light to Keep Newham Going, pledging an additional £100m investment on improving the borough’s roads, pavements and lights over the next 10 years.
They also agreed on an additional £1m a year of funding on litter enforcement to keep Newham clean.
Free parking for residents attending funerals as well as holiday parking permits are also laid out in the plans.
Addressing the chamber on Monday, Sir Robin added: “It’s about changing people’s lives. We are efficient, we are active, we are entrepreneurial.”