Uncertain future for Westminster after budget cuts announcement
Westminster reacts to last week’s Comprehensive Spending Review
WITH the fallout to Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review only just beginning, the overriding feeling in Westminster is one of uncertainty.
While the headlines include a 28 per cent reduction in local government funding, the full impact on Westminster is unlikely to be known until individual council funding is determined in December.
Westminster Council had previously announced plans to make �54million worth of savings over the next three years and Leader Colin Barrow says the extent of the government’s cuts were expected with the country’s “dire financial situation”.
“We have got lots of ideas as to what we can do but we are taking it one step at a time,” he said.
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“When we know the scale of the hole we have to fill, we will start to choose among the options we have.
“We know the figures for the whole country but we don’t yet know what will be given to Westminster.
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“Before Christmas we will put some proposals up for consultation.
“I can’t say we have decided anything at all so far – we have options but we are waiting to see.
“It’s inevitable that the council will be required to spend less next year than this and less the after.
“That’s why we are paying a lot of attention to management first. So we can honestly say that we have tried to be as effective as possible.”
While Westminster specifics are as yet unknown, national funding for policing is set to be cut by 20 per cent over the next four years prompting fears over the future of Westminster’s police.
Jack Gordon, chairman of Hyde Park safer neighbourhood panel, said: “The police are not immune from the cuts and we want to be sure that their priorities are the concerns of the residents and people who work and study in the area.
“We just want to make sure that the frontline services are supported.
“There are a number of meetings taking place within the Metropolitan police to look at safer neighbourhood policing.
“People feeling safe is important.”
Another area of concern is that of the NHS which - despite securing protection in the spending review in the form of a slight budget rise - will experience a real term funding decrease.
“The whole idea of the NHS was that whatever it managed to save was put back into it, not taken out and put somewhere else,” said Westminster LINk chairman Paul Wilson.
“There have got to be cuts but there will be a lot of jobs lost and that’s what scares me.
“The general NHS service will suffer.”
But while gloom and doom seems to be dominating the reaction to Mr Osborne’s announcement, David Hogarth, of Westminster Older People’s Action, says the cuts may create the chance to restore a sense of community spirit rather than relying on the government.
“If they are going to have such a loss in revenue then some things will have to go,” he said.
“On the other hand you can see it as an opportunity for people to do things they should already be doing themselves like looking after their neighbours and helping out those that need it.
“I think that could be a side effect of it. There’s quite lot of good will out there.”