Lambeth council needs to cut 500 jobs in the short term and possibly twice that many in the long term on top of 1,000 already lost as a result of central government cuts, chief executive Sean Harriss told a meeting of its cabinet last night (7 December).
In an unusual move, he had been asked to explain the impact on the borough of the government’s latest comprehensive spending review.
He said the council needs to make “almost immediate” additional cuts of up to £35 million to balance its books. It was facing loss of income at an “unprecedented pace, scale and complexity”.
His report said that a review of agency staff employed by the council had already led to 170 temporary workers being “released” on 20 November.
The council is introducing a one-off enhanced voluntary severance scheme to encourage staff to leave quickly.
Its financial position will not be clear until it gets its provisional financial settlement from central government just before Christmas.
Sean Harriss told the cabinet meeting at Lilian Baylis school in Vauxhall that the council’s statutory responsibilities would not change as its income fell, so children and adult social care would grow as a proportion of its reduced spending.
There would be a “big and continued impact on universal provision across the borough”.
Cabinet member for housing Cllr Matthew Bennett said that in January 2014 some 1,300 homeless families were housed by Lambeth in temporary accommodation. Now there were well over 1,800, including 5,000 children. The council budget for temporary accommodation was about £5 million but had been overspent this year by more than £5million.
As rents in Lambeth soar, eviction from private rented accommodation is now the number one reason for homelessness in the borough.
Deputy leader Imogen Walker and cabinet member for health and wellbeing Jim Dickson said the cuts had created the most difficult financial circumstances they had known as councillors. The council also had very low reserves.
Cllr Jackie Meldrum, the cabinet member for adult social care, said people should direct their anger and frustration at central government who wanted to “devolve the blame about the cuts that we have to make”. But the blame lay squarely with central government.
Council leader Lib Peck said the 56% funding cut the council faces is “extraordinary and unprecedented” and will be “extremely tough”.