Ealing’s Financial Crisis

EALING COUNCIL in west London is facing a massive financial
crisis, which local authority workers and services users will be expected to
pay for. This crisis has been brewing for some time.

Brian Blake, Ealing UNISON

Councillors and senior management talk about the borough
possibly having to deal with a £21 million ‘overspend’, particularly in social
services. But our borough’s vital services are actually under-funded.

‘Overspend’ can mean only one thing: cuts in services and
attacks on the pay and conditions of the council workforce. There has already
been £6 million-worth of cuts agreed by the cabinet on 9 December. These
include £38,000 cut from the libraries, £227,000 cut from homeless provision
and cuts in care for the elderly. They want to charge for day centre services
as well as cutting services for people with learning disabilities by £17,000.

There are many more changes like increased charges for
off-street parking to raise £550,000 and cuts in recycling and gully
cleansing. They even want to make marriages more expensive!

Whilst cutting services, councillors are preparing to spend
at least £7 million on a scheme they call ‘Making A World Of Difference’ (MAWOD).
Incredibly they claim this will improve public access to services.

Everyone is in favour of good quality services with easy
access being available to the people of Ealing, but the way things are going
there will be no services to get access to.

This mess has been caused by insufficient grants from
central government, resulting in a massive hike in council tax last year. This
was compounded by bad financial administration. Why should we pay for senior
management’s incompetence? They should take responsibility for their actions
and resign.

We demand the council open the books so that we can see
where the money has been spent. We oppose a budget set by councillors and
senior managers wedded to cuts, privatisation and the financial constraints of
central government. The council unions need to come together with service users
in a campaign against the cuts, which should include the drawing up of a budget
based on the needs of our borough, with any shortfall in funding being met by
central government not council tax rises.

Ultimate responsibility for the current financial mess
rests with a New Labour council all too willing to carry out Blairite policies.

Council elections will not be held until 2006. Many workers
will rightly feel that those carrying out the cuts should resign now. Trade
union and community backed anti-cuts anti-privatisation candidates could get
enormous support from workers fed up with New Labour’s Tory policies.