CLLR ASHLEY LUMSDEN, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GROUP LEADER, LAMBETH COUNCIL
It is that time of year when the council debates its budgets and I’ve just submitted the Liberal Democrat alternative to Labour’s budget proposals.
Our alternative budget makes a number of simple back-office savings including introducing more flexible working for staff. This frees up money to reverse some of Labour’s more damaging cuts to frontline services such as their plans to cut funding for domestic violence refuges or their cut to the joint funding of 23 Police Community Support Officers. We can also put back the cuts to money spent on repairing potholes, waste collection and street sweeping services, and restore funding for local arts organisations.
The Liberal Democrat alternative budget also puts forward a proposal to release £5million from the council’s serves that was set up to help the Labour administration become a ‘Cooperative Council’, but seems to have mostly been left unused in the bank.
We believe this money would be much better spent on two projects. Firstly a Local Investment Programme will fund improvements in every single ward in Lambeth, based on priorities decided by local residents and their Councillors.
Secondly we’d launch a programme to help more unemployed women in Lambeth find a job. Because in Lambeth the percentage of unemployed women is much higher than the London average, while the percentage of unemployed men is lower than average. We want women as well as other groups struggling to find work to get vital extra support. It’s certainly better to invest money in our residents, rather than leaving this money idle in the bank earning next-to-no interest.
Thankfully there is cross-party support to accept the Council Tax freeze grant from the Coalition Government, which has meant that Lambeth residents will not see a Council Tax increase again this year. This is the fourth year in a row that the coalition government has made funding available for Councils to freeze Council Tax and help residents with the cost of living.
I hope that Labour councillors will see that with a little compromise we can achieve a better budget for Lambeth.