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Strike action threat as Lewisham mayor approves £24.5m cuts
AXED Lewisham school attendance workers could go on strike - as the council warns the £95m of cuts it is being forced to make over the next four years will need a comprehensive overhaul of its services.
Members of the attendance and welfare service labelled Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock "disgusting" at a meeting on February 12, after he recommended cutting their service by £300,000, having already made a £200,000 saving.
The cut will see staffing for the service - which combats truancy and has helped the borough to the seventh best figures in the country - halved by the start of the next school year.
Under planned changes, schools will need to buy the service in from existing budgets, but the cabinet meeting on February 12 heard it was uncertain what packages they would want.
But Sir Steve, who heard neighbouring boroughs spent far less on their own service, said: "Where we have costs which are clearly higher than others are achieving, we have little choice but to find ways to get those costs down."
Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said afterwards staff would now be balloted for strike action. He said: "We are determined to fight to save this service. We have now exhausted every avenue open to us, including addressing councillors directly - yet it appears we are not being listened to."
At the same meeting Councillor Paul Maslin said the council, which has already made £85m in cuts blamed on government austerity, had used up its capacity for efficiency savings and would now need "wholesale, comprehensive service redesign".
Sir Steve, who backed a council tax freeze, approved a range of savings worth £24.5m which must now be voted on by the full council including a rent increase of five per cent.
Meanwhile, in the coming months officers will look at ways to redesign services to meet the squeezed budgets in a project called the Lewisham Future Programme.
Council chief exec Barry Quirk said Lewisham would be "promiscuous" in seeking other local authorities to share services with, saying: "We'll partner with anyone who can help us save money and sustain services."