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Bexley Council leader Teresa O'Neill: Trust us to make the right budget savings
BEXLEY Council’s leader says residents must trust the authority to make the right multimillion pound savings as further cuts loom.
Councillor Teresa O’Neill is currently overseeing a projected £39.3 million reduction in council spending which began in 2011 and ends in May.
But Bexley will need to find a further £38 million of savings from next year through to 2018 as central government funding continues to be slashed and inflation and a growing dependent population take their toll.
Speaking in advance of a planned public consultation on the council’s "service adjustment" proposals, Cllr O’Neill said she is confident a 45 per cent cut in government grants between 2010 and 2016 can be absorbed.
One strategy for removing a combined £5.4 million from the Adults’ Services and Children’s Services budgets from next year until 2018 is to reduce dependency on council services.
For Cllr O’Neill this includes focusing more on rehabilitation for stroke sufferers in the first six weeks to try and get them back in their own homes and out of care homes and hospitals.
She told News Shopper: "It sounds cold nosed that you are doing this but actually it’s better for the recipients and a better use of taxpayers’ money.
"We have made savings before and we will make them again.
"We have taken out £61.5 million since we took over in 2006 and on the doorstep people are still happy with what we are doing.
"A great strength of Bexley is we are all in it together."
But there were no plans to loosen strict parking enforcement in the borough as Cllr O’Neill defended the council’s record.
She said: "Our parking charges are among the lowest in London.
"We are really cognisant of the fact we are quite car dependent and want to keep people safe.
"We do put residents at the forefront."
Munir Malik, Labour shadow cabinet member for finance and corporate services, said: "After seven years of a slash and burn cuts policy Bexley's Tories now have a £38m black hole to fill.
“With services already cut to the bone the choice they present citizens is municipal bankruptcy or a 40 per cent council tax hike on top of the annual £7m stealth tax raid.
“Charges soaring, services crippled and finances catastrophic - that's the record of Bexley Conservatives."
The public consultation on the budget changes will start on October 21 and run until December 16.
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