Bexley Council braced for further cuts

News Shopper: Council leader Councillor Teresa O'Neill says people understand why cuts have to be made Council leader Councillor Teresa O'Neill says people understand why cuts have to be made

MORE cuts in council services may be on the way, following the details of how much government grant Bexley Council will receive over the next two years.

The grant has been cut by £9.25m or just over 12 per cent for next year followed by a further cut of £5.8m or just over eight per cent in 2012/13.

Some other areas of government funding to the council have also been cut.

Bexley has already indentified potential savings of £33m.

But the funding announcement puts further pressure on the council lasting up until 2016, but especially next year.

At the same time, it anticipates demand on services to increase along with inflation and other extra costs.

Council leader, Councillor Teresa O’Neill warned: “This has been a particularly tough announcement for Bexley.”

She said yet more savings would now have to be found to offset the loss of funding.

Proposals on the £33m axe will fall are currently up for public consultation and Cllr O’Neill says she has been talking to Bexley residents, the borough’s head teachers and members of South East London Chamber of Commerce.

Cllr O’Neill said: “From my conversations I believe people understand the country’s financial position and the importance of reducing our spending.”

She added: “I hope that people will let us know whether they agree with our priorities and the thinking behind our proposals, and also let us know if they have ideas of their own about how we can do things better and reduce our costs."

But there are concerns people are only being given the broad scope of the proposed cuts to comment on, while the detailed picture is being decided behind the scenes.

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The axing of funding to groups such as Bexley Arts Council and Bexley Council for Equality and Diversity (formerly BCRE) is only gradually emerging.

People are still waiting to hear details of other cuts such as the identity of the three libraries whose futures may be under threat and the fate of Bexley Adult Education College’s buildings, particularly Crayford Manor House, as well as plans for community and youth centres.

The concern is these decisions are being taken behind closed doors by cabinet members instead of being publicly debated so people know what alternatives were considered.

A council spokesman said: “We have set out to give an indication of what the proposals will mean and we will make further information public where we can.”

He added: “We are discussing the proposals in greater detail with those who are most affected, for example, with service users and providers, staff and schools.

Details of the cuts are available at bexley.gov.uk/strategy 2014 where people can join in an online discussion at bexleytalks.izwe.com to make their comments, complete the online survey, or write with comments and suggestions to Strategy 2014 Feedback, Bexley Civic Offices, Broadway, Bexleyheath DA6 7LB.

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