Home Business News While Labour make damaging cuts, Southwark Lib Dems set out alternative budget that puts people first

While Labour make damaging cuts, Southwark Lib Dems set out alternative budget that puts people first

by LLB political Reporter
19th Feb 24 3:46 pm

Southwark Liberal Democrat council group, the only opposition in Southwark, have put forward an alternative council budget for 2024/25.

The proposals would increase resident support to address the cost of living, reverse cuts to social care, improve customer services for communities and make real progress in tackling the climate emergency.

Southwark’s budget for 2024/25 will be agreed on Wednesday 21st February at a full council assembly.

The Labour Administration’s proposals would see £6.5m slashed from social care budgets and library services reduced.

Last month, Southwark’s Equalities and Human Rights Panel has raised concerns (for the second year running) about the impact of these cuts on vulnerable people who rely on these services, but Labour have opted to ignore these warnings.

Labour plans would also see library services reduced whilst refusing to cut wasteful Town Hall spending on catering, stationary and politically-driven communications campaigns.

The Liberal Democrats are proposing three major amendments to Labour’s budget which would put people and communities first by tackling council waste and generating income with innovative policies.

Supporting struggling residents

To help those struggling with the cost of living crisis, the Lib Dem group is calling for the council to freeze council tax for working-age residents already in receipt of council tax reductions.

This would be achieved through a further council tax reduction of £150 for all eligible residents, effectively freezing their council tax bill and providing extra financial support.

The Lib Dem group is also proposing to reverse the council’s plan to cut £2m from the adult social care budget to ensure the service can still deliver for those who rely on it.

This extra support would be funded through cuts to wasteful council spending, streamlining the bloated Labour cabinet and generating income from increased fees for filming and planning application as well as a pilot tourist tax scheme.

Deputy leader of the Southwark Lib Dems Cllr Rachel Bentley said the additional support is still “crucially necessary as the cost of living crisis continues” and “prioritises the needs of residents over the political aims of the Labour council”.

Bringing services back to communities

Recognising the need for improved council services, the Alternative Budget introduces a pioneering “one-stop shop” programme in council owned buildings throughout the borough. This innovative approach streamlines access to essential services, particularly addressing housing-related issues, while reinstating cuts to library services to bolster community support.

The scheme would be funded with £1m from Labour’s unallocated £3m Southwark 2030 reserve and scrapping a new £140,000 spin-doctor post.

The innovative scheme is being put forward to address Southwark’s housing repair scandal. It would directly improve Southwark’s housing services by allowing residents to easily report issues directly to council officers face-to-face.

Additionally, to add further support and capacity to housing services, the Lib Dem group is proposing plans to train significantly more apprentices in the Southwark repairs team.

Cllr Victor Chamberlain, leader of the Southwark Lib Dems, proposing the amendment, said the ‘one stop shops’ would represent a “shift towards being accessible and inclusive council, moving away from the centralised, inefficiency we see under Labour.”

Cllr Chamberlain added “these are the kind of innovative policies we need to improve Southwark’s scandal-ridden housing service.”

Going greener faster

The Lib Dem alternative budget would see real progress in tackling the climate emergency through an ambitious retrofitting scheme for private tenants.

Using £13.3m of unallocated funds from Labour’s underused climate reserve, the council could provide grants for low-income households to retrofit their homes – reducing bills and emissions as well as tackling damp and mould.

The Lib Dem group is also proposing to create a new £5m Community Climate Fund, empowering local communities to decide how to spearhead climate initiatives tailored to their unique needs and priorities.

Cllr Irina von Wiese, proposing the amendment, said “investing in retrofitting reduces emissions, reduces energy bills for vulnerable households and tackles damp and mould”, adding that the Liberal Democrat group are “showing Labour how they can turn words into actions on the climate emergency”.

Cllr Rachel Bentley, Deputy Leader of the Southwark Liberal Democrat Group and Parliamentary spokesperson for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said, “The Liberal Democrat Alternative Budget represents a bold step towards addressing the real concerns of Southwark residents. From protecting vulnerable households to fostering sustainable communities, our proposals embody our unwavering commitment to building a better, more resilient Southwark for all.

“We’re scrapping the £150,000 spin doctor and investing money in improving the service the council offers to residents. Southwark’s Housing Department is in chaos. Whilst Labour are burying their head in the sand, Liberal Democrats are putting forward a fair deal with constructive solutions to help improve the experience for residents.”

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