Latest news from your local representatives
Welcome to the latest update on events in South Acton and Ealing. This is the last update before the break for Christmas (early season;s greetings to all), and not only has a lot been going on, but there’s a busy few weeks ahead particularly as Ealing faces up to the latest challenge of central government cuts and sets out the latest budget plans.
There’s always a sombre start to November as your South Acton councillors gather for the remembrance services. The first, held on the first Sunday of November, took place at the Acton War Memorial at Acton Hospital on Gunnersbury Lane (now the Acton Care Centre), where Josh, Yvonne and I were joined by other councillors, the mayor, the leader of the council and Labour’s PPC Rupa Huq to pay our respects. The second is held in Ealing at the main war memorial at Ealing Green in front of Pitzhanger Manor on Remembrance Sunday. This year was all the more solemn being the hundredth anniversary of the start of the first world war, and knowing what followed, as Ealing council leader cllr Julian bell said: “We pay tribute to the millions of men and women who have lost their lives in war and also remember those who are still engaged in conflicts overseas and hope for their safe return.” And that is the main call, we remember, lest we forget.
The other main focus over the past month has been detailed discussion of the council’s finances and the latest round of cuts that we face. On top of the £87 million of cuts that we have made to date (for the 2010-2014 period), cabinet this week outlined the latest changes to Ealing council’s budget which will see some £56 million more cuts to our services. Sadly central government has announced it is reducing Ealing’s budget by a total of £96 million which must be achieved by April 2019. With such major cuts to our grants we will be unable to continue to fund services at the same level; that means the services Ealing offers face fundamental change.
As Julian Bell, leader of the council, said: “Local councils have been hit harder than any other part of the public sector by central government cuts. Over the last four years we have faced unrelenting cuts and this is now stretching out toward the end of the decade. To reduce our budgets we have cut costs and become more efficient while still improving our performance. But we have to face facts. Without the money needed to make ends meet we have been left with no choice but to think the unthinkable and to make these heart-breaking decisions. What is worse we know that there is more to come.”
None of us came into local government to make cuts like this, we want to not only speak up for our services and protect them, if not shout out loud, sadly central government is not listening, and at the end of the day we have a responsibility to set a balanced budget. Our choice is to implement these cuts or to raise the council tax, sadly, to continue the level of services we currently provide we would have to double the council tax for everyone in the borough. Under law we would have to hold a referendum if we plan a rise of 2 per cent or higher, I very much doubt that in these straitened times people would vote for a 100 per cent increase to maintain the current level of services.
That is why we are trying to do things differently. It is not easy, and there are many hard decisions ahead, but Ealing’s Labour council is trying to ensure we prioritise funding on areas we believe will have the greatest impact on improving the lives of local people. That’s one of the reasons I have been out and about looking at how other councils are coping with the cuts, in the past month I have been to Birmingham, Coventry and Hastings [all paid for out of my own pocket] looking at how they deliver services in the midst of unprecedented pressures. There’s much more to do, and many more difficult decisions, but Ealing is trying its best to protect local services while also trying to challenge central government cuts and attract investment to the borough.
And that takes me to the latest Overview & Scrutiny Committee which was a long one this month. We not only looked at the latest update on children’s services, but also covered the local strategic plan where we received updates from the council leader as well as chief superintendent Paul Martin from the Metropolitan Police and others (the focus was looking at how we can join up services with other local providers).
The other main item on the agenda was the call in from the Tory opposition who objected to proposals for Ealing town hall and Perceval House. With the reduction in staff and changes to what we can offer as a council due to central government cuts we are looking at wholescale ways of doing things differently and evaluating ways to make savings while retain services as best we can. While protecting our heritage we’re looking at how the two sites could accommodate smaller offices while retaining our civic space, improved community rooms and space, relocating Ealing Central Library, and adding not just a small hotel, but possibly much needed homes. As ever, the Tories objected, and sadly with a rather negative edge (and generally ignoring the financial pressures Ealing faces) as these are outline proposals. The committee however agreed to support the plans going forward as they protect the town hall but looks at using space more effectively.
And that brings me back to South Acton and the latest changes in terms of regeneration. Anyone that has been down Bollo Bridge Road will have seen work on the new blocks is progressing, and if you’ve been down to South Acton station both Wolfe and Woodhouse have come down ready to be replaced with new housing. This Saturday (29 November), there’s also an exhibition at the Oak Tree Community Centre about the latest phases in the redevelopment of the estate do go along between :13:30 and 17:30 to get an idea of the plans for the next steps in the wholesale change coming. And there’s a lot of positive change coming.
Over the next month we also have a lot going on. Next week I have the latest board meeting of Action Acton (soon to be renamed Action West London) and then there is a full week of council business with full council meeting on Tuesday 9 December [the agenda will be published shortly]. The following day Yvonne and I are at pension fund panel before the next cabinet on 16 December inevitably looking at more changes to council services. The final municipal meeting of the year will see me chair Overview & Scrutiny once again on the 18 December, that meeting should see further call-ins from the Tory opposition after the budget announcements that we have been forced to make, the question will be whether the Tory opposition will offer any practical alternatives [don’t bank on it].
And that’s it for now , remember we are always out and about knocking on doors in the ward, and also don’t forget the shift to individual electoral registration continues so make sure you are not denied a voice, especially as we have a general election coming up, so if you’re not registered then check out the following link on the Ealing council website: http://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/200642/elections/869/register_to_vote
As ever if you have any questions please feel free to drop us a line, and we’ll try our best to help.
Josh, Yvonne and Mik
Josh Blacker – firstname.lastname@example.org 07934 773 372
Yvonne Johnson – email@example.com – 020 8993 4166
Mik Sabiers – firstname.lastname@example.org – 020 8992 5014/updates on twitter: @miksabiers
2nd December 2014