Well the summer break is well a truly over and the hard work of running Ealing Council under a Tory government is back with a vengeance, testing myself and local Labour councillors to the full. We recently met as a group to talk about both the tough budget challenges we face but also about our Labour values and how we would use them to mitigate the cuts and shape our vision for Ealing in 2018. It was both sobering and exciting.
Working towards setting the 2016/17 budget we are currently reviewing cuts proposals forced on us by a Tory government that has disproportionately hit local government and is callously indifferent to the impacts on the most vulnerable. It is a worrying and painful process when your budget is being cut by £184.6m. We have so far implemented or identified and agreed £154.1m but the remaining £30.5m that we are currently working on is the most difficult and heart breaking of all. We will apply our Labour values and try to protect the most vulnerable as best we can but it is a nigh on impossible job where we are choosing the least worst option.
A Labour government would have given us some respite but that was not to be. We do however have two positive opportunities that will mitigate the cuts and shape our Borough for the future. With Crossrail arriving in 2018/19 with five stations across the Borough and HS2 and Old Oak Common planned for 2025 we are looking to maximise inward investment, economic growth and jobs in Ealing. Added to this opportunity to grow our local economy will hopefully be a devolving of power and budgets from central government to town halls in employment and skills, health, housing and crime and justice.
Devolution will come with a "haircut" as the Tories try to hide further cuts in any package that comes down to us but added to the economic prosperity of west London we at least should be still standing in 2018. Let's hope so.