The Liberal Democrat opposition on Southwark Council have produced an alternative budget which enables the a 3% increase in spending, but delivered through efficiency savings rather than the council tax increase.
Southwark Council will be raising the basic level of Council Tax by 2.99% this year. This is the maximum they are allowed to without triggering a local referendum, and will be on top of a 3% precept increase to pay for adult social care, meaning local residents face a near 6% increase in total.
It is a legal requirement that all budgets and amendments must be examined and signed off by the independent Chief Finance Officer as being ‘legal, balanced and implementable’. That means the savings found by Southwark Liberal Democrats to cover the increase spending have been established as accurate and deliverable. They have proposed cutting the number of the Council’s press officers, stop producing the in-house magazine ‘Southwark Life’, and ending ‘Golden Goodbyes’ to cabinet ministers who decide to resign months in advance of standing down from office. Other sources of revenue have been found by providing more flexibility on annual leave to council staff, incentivize staff to take cheaper options on travel and accommodation costs, and to make Direct Debit payments of council tax the default option people much opt-out of, rather than opt-in.
Cllr Anood Al-Samerai, Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition said ‘We would support raising council tax if it really was necessary but the first step should always be to look at how savings can be made. The Chief Finance Officer has signed off on our plans, and they deliver the same front-line services without raising council tax.
Is it really essential for the council to give five-figure pay-offs to Cabinet Members who announce they’re standing down months in advance? Would anyone really suffer if the council’s big team of spin-doctors was slimmed down? Why not be smarter and cut down the number of people that don’t pay their council tax like they should?
Southwark Labour have always found money for their pet projects, like giving a million to the Tate with next to nothing but a shiny name on a board somewhere to show for it.
This is the second year in a row that they’ve taken the lazy option of increasing council tax to the max, rather than looking at ways of being smarter with people’s money. People are struggling. If there are proven ways to avoid increasing the cost of living above and beyond inflation and wage increases, then the council should take it.’