Next week we will pass our budget for 2015/16 and we will freeze local resident’s council tax bills for the 7th year running. Since Labour took power in 2010 bills have not gone up by one penny. We know that people are suffering from the disastrous economic policies of this Tory- led Government. The cost of living crisis is hitting residents across the borough and by freezing bills we are doing our bit to help.
Through our budget we’ve also provided money for more council homes to be built, our estate regeneration programme is continuing to transform people’s lives by delivering top quality affordable homes. School expansion has now become routine with money in this budget for hundreds of new school places. We’re also improving our borough’s sports facilities with millions of pounds for new changing rooms, pitches and facilities at sites across the borough. These are fantastic Labour achievements in a time of extreme financial difficulty for the council.
Whilst there are positives in the budget we cannot ignore the mountain of Tory cuts we are facing. Between 2010-2018 this council will have lost £183m of funding from the Tory-led Government. That is money that will be taken out of local services that people rely on. The only way we can save that much money is to reduce services. We have always sought to protect the most vulnerable however given that more than half of our expenditure is on social care it is inevitable that we will have to make cuts to adults’ and children’s services. The people to blame for this are the bankers who caused the global crash, the Tories who insisted on cutting too deep and too soon and Eric Pickles who demanded that council’s take more of the pain than any other area of Government.
As well as the huge cuts we are facing, we also have demographic pressure. We have an ageing population which means more expenditure on social care, and an increasing birth rate which means we have to spend more money on school places. Research has shown that if current trends continue increased demand for our services will place more pressure on council’s than the Government’s cuts by the end of the decade.
These are huge challenges but the future is not all doom and gloom. Ealing is a great place to live and work as shown by the 82% of people who said they are happy they live here in our recent residents’ survey. We also have a bright future with the huge amount of inward investment. Crossrail will be a major catalyst for new development. We can see cranes all across Ealing building the jobs and homes we need to thrive as a borough.
I believe that this budget will do two things. Firstly it will provide the best possible protection for local services against vicious Tory cuts and secondly it will set Ealing on the track to prosper by encouraging job, homes and investment.