Lib Dems: Our cuts would save centres for the vulnerable

Labour’s budget proposals go to Haringey Council tonight - here Lib Dem leader Cllr Robert Gorrie outlines how they’d do things differently

PLANS to save day centres for the vulnerable and soften cuts to youth services, community policing and the voluntary sector have been unveiled by Haringey’s Liberal Democrats.

Councillors will vote tonight on a budget put forward by the Labour administration for the coming financial year, which will see more than �40million wiped from the balance books and plans put in place to save �85million over the next three years.

Labour says the cuts are necessary following a reduction in grants from the government and an increased demand for their services .

But speaking at a special briefing this week, leader of the local Liberal Democrat party Cllr Robert Gorrie claimed that though the situation was tough, Labour was making the wrong choices and should be protecting frontline services by cutting more from areas like communications, top managers and IT.

While supporting Labour’s representations to the Department for Communities and Local Government for extra funding for children’s services so that Haringey should be funded as an inner-London borough and that some savings should be deferred to later years, he added: “It’s a very, very tough settlement and there’s no way this scale of savings can be made without an impact on residents and services.

“But at the margin, we believe it’s about making choices and that a number of choices Labour are making are wrong and we have provided some alternatives.

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“They are making choices to shut services that have a significant impact on the most vulnerable in society and we are saying they don’t need to make those choices. I don’t believe any of the people who voted for Labour voted for 75 per cent cuts to the youth service, or closing day centres.”

Cllr Gorrie said the deficit was not just down to the national situation, but also Labour’s own actions, such as poor forward-planinng and investing �37million in Icelandic banks – the most by any London borough.

“The annual write-off of that Icelandic loss is �581,000 a year – that would pay for all the old people’s day centres and lunch clubs. So that money is not esoteric, it’s a real issue that’s had a real effect,” he said.

The five proposals to amend the budget include swapping funding for the youth service for savings made in reforming fostering services. The Lib Dems also propose saving day centres such as Jackson’s Lane lunch club and Crouch End’s Abyssinia Court by halving the council’s spend on unions.

By forcing Alexandra Palace to save two per cent of its budget, even more money could be diverted to the voluntary sector, they say.

AMENDMENTS - What the Liberal Democrats say they would be differently.

* Plans to cut �400,000 from community policing would be reversed by the Lib Dems, with �40,000 guaranteed to maintain the post of Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator. The money would be saved by cutting two to four per cent of the �20million that is currently spent on managers earning more than �50,000.

* Lib Dems would recoup �900,000 worth of cuts back from those planned in the youth service, which is set to see 75 per cent, or �1.96million of its budget axed.

To do this, the group says it would invest in Haringey’s fostering service, making it cheaper by looking after more children in-house, rather than with agencies, saving a net of �400,000. They would also shave an additional �500,000 from the �16.5million the borough spends running its IT - the cash is already being reduced by six per cent under Labour plans.

* To help the local economy the Lib Dems hope to reinstate half of the �700,000 set to be axed from projects tackling unemployment and reduce the planned increase in stop-and-shop parking charges, costing �425,000. To claw this back, they propose deleting 20 of 640 vacant posts at the authority and axing the �100,000 a year the council pays out in credit card fees, by passing them onto the card users.

* Cutting day centres and lunch clubs for the elderly is set to save the council �171,000 next year. The Lib Dems say that by halving the amount the council spends on union officials - �316,000 - and increasing cuts in the Policy and Performance department by one per cent, these centres could be saved. Saving them in 2012/13 would require a further �254,000 saving from the �4million Policy and Performance budget.

*The Lib Dems would invest �700,000 in the voluntary sector - due for larger cuts - by halving the �2million communications budget. Labour plans to only cut it to �1.5million. They would also force Alexandra Palace to reduce its operating costs by two per cent, saving �171,000.