Bexley Council agreed to freeze council tax yesterday (MARCH 5) but also signed off almost £8m of cuts enforced over the next year.
Jeers and applause ran through the council chamber in Bexleyheath Broadway as the members debated the budget with Labour councillors denouncing the “cuts to frontline services”.
Bexley has been forced to find £38m of savings from this year to 2018 as funding from central government funding continues to be slashed and inflation.
Council Leader Councillor Teresa O’Neill told the members: “We are saving the tax payers money.
“Bexley residents tell us to our face that we are doing a good job.
“The opposition would have increased council tax by 40 per cent.
“The last few years have been a challenge. The whole council have got on board with this budget.”
Despite savings of £7.7m to be made over the next financial year there will be an additional £1.5m for children’s services as a result of demographic changes.
This includes £1m to reflect the increase in the number of looked-after children and £0.5m to cover the rise in the number of children and young people subject to fostering and guardianship.
Cllr O’Neill said: “After our Ofsted report in 2012, which described us as inadequate in key areas, we dusted ourselves off and made improvements.”
She described “sleepless nights” of members over the council’s move to new offices in the former Woolwich building. The relocation should happen later this year.
As a result of the budget consultation which closed in December last year, the council also decided not to take forward a proposal to move the borough’s Local Studies and Archives Centre to Bromley.
However Labour councillors appeared unimpressed with the budget proposals.
The meeting was held at the civic centre
Councillor Brenda Langstead said: “I have grave concerns for the leisure department.
"These cuts are going to face front line services. I do not have confidence in this.
“Demand for front line services has gone up around 50 per cent over the last few years.”
Councillor Edward Boetang said: “What a woeful job they have done at protecting services. And there has been a huge increase in using food banks.
“When it comes to social care, if we don’t have the wages, we won’t get the people.”
Councillor Seán Newman told the News Shopper after the meeting: "The council tax freeze claim is disingenuous at best when £7m is levied each year in stealth taxes - that's the equivalent of 11 per cent on the council tax each year."