Monday, 28 February 2011

Financial Context - This financial crisis is 'Made in Westminster'

·         Westminster City Council is making £60 million of cuts over the next 2 years, 75% of which will hit front-line services.

·         Long before the Conservative-led Government demanded £60 million of cuts over the next two years, Westminster’s Conservatives had presided over a massive fall in the Council’s income which had forced them to raid the Council’s financial reserves in order to keep the Council solvent.

·         The Council’s income from Parking fines dropped by nearly £18 million, from £38.2 million in 2006/7 to £20.5 million in 2009/10, while the Council’s income from interest payments dropped by nearly £14 million from a high of £25.2 million in 2008/09 to just £11.8 million a year later.
  • Westminster City Council’s financial reserves have plummeted by more than £60 million, from £72 million in June 2008 to £11.4 million in November 2010, according to a report to the Council’s Audit and Performance Committee.
  • The Council has spent £3,973,952 on 12 temporary staff, all of whom cost the Council over £500 a day. The highest paid temporary staff member, a Temporary Head of Regeneration and Partnerships, costs the Council £745 a day and has cost £453,446 for the 608 days the person has worked for the Council. A Senior Project Manager, costing £600 a day, has cost the Council £852,600 for 1,421 days’ work, while a Senior Business Analyst, costing £521 a day, has cost the Council £827,400 for 1,588 days’ work. Overall, the Council spends £10.5 million a year on temporary staff.
·         Meanwhile, the ‘flagship’ Council invested nearly £17 million in now-failed Icelandic Banks, of which over £11 million has yet to be recovered.
  • 300 hundred Council jobs have been axed over the past two years in order to try to balance the books, but now the Council is having to sack a further 450 staff to make the £52 million cuts demanded by the Government. The Council estimates that redundancy costs for 2011/12 and 2012/13 “will be in the range £12-18m”. However, there is insufficient money in Council’s reserves to cover these redundancy costs.
·         Two Westminster City Council Officers earn more than the Prime Minister, according to figures released by the Council, with a further 20 senior Council officers earning over £100,000 a year.
·                     In the Budget report to Councillors, Council officers remind the Conservatives that that they ignored successive Finance Officers’ advice for a Council Tax “increase of 2.9% in 2005/06, 5% in 2006/07, 5% in 2007/08 and 2% in 2008/09.” If the Council had followed the advice of successive Directors of Finance (and Labour Councillors), the Council would have £13 million more income this year, which would have cost the average Band D Council payer just 80p a week extra.
  • The current Director of Finance, Barbara Moorhouse says in the report that she “considers that the Council should plan for an increase in Council Tax in 2012/13 by a minimum of 3.5%” and “considers that given Westminster’s tax base a case may be made for a higher level”.

Sure Start - Services at Westminster’s Sure Start Children’s Centres which are threatened as part of the £5.4 million cuts in services to Children and Young people over the next two years, including the loss of at least 12 early years staff. The £5.4 million of cuts from services to Children and Young People over the next two years, include cuts of nearly £1.7 million to ‘early intervention’ services.

Labour Councillors have received information from Council Officers that;

“The eight Children Centre managers employed by WCC have had a letter stating that they are vulnerable to redundancy.  There will be three new posts of locality children centre managers.  The majority of other posts are provided through partner agencies via a Service Level Agreement or contract.  These contracts are due to end on 31 March and I understand that many providers have issued notices of vulnerability to redundancy until the funding is clear for 2011/12. “

Play - The Council’s plans will also see working parents having to pay the full price for places at Play centres and then claim 70% of the cost through the Working Tax Credit. The Council says that “the low fees charged to parents have resulted in a significantly low local take-up of working tax credit”

The Council’s cuts involve

·         A cut of £275,000 in 2011/12
  • A cut to the contract with Westminster Society for People with Learning Difficulties (WSPLD) in 2011/12 which the Council says “are expected to offer further cost reductions towards the savings agreed by Cabinet on 17 December”
  • A cut to the Lisson Green Play contract which ends in March 2012 which the Council says  “will be re-let with a view to seeking further savings”
  • An increase in costs for places which the Council says will mean “increased fee income of £100k per annum over a 3 year period.”
In addition, the number of staff will be halved. The Council says;

“Currently Westminster Play Service employs 80 staff in 28 full-time equivalent (FTE) posts……. under the proposed staffing arrangements the establishment of full time employed staff will reduce to 14 FTE posts.”

  • Westminster City Council is planning a 545% increase in charges for holiday play schemes and a 360% increase in the cost of after school play provision. The Council plans to restrict subsidised holiday and after school play places to children who are “at risk of significant harm and subject to Child Protection plans and children with significant needs”. All other parents will be subject to:

    an increase in charges for children’s holiday play schemes from £22 a week to £120 a week – an increase of 545%
  • an increase in charges for children’s after school play provision from £8.30p a week to £30 a week – an increase of 360%

The Council is proposing over £8 million in cuts over the next two years, including a cut of over £4.6 million in day care for vulnerable adults, a £2.2 million cut in assessment and care services for vulnerable adults and a £1.4 million cut in home care for vulnerable adults.

The Council plans to raise the eligibility threshold for adult social care services to cover only people with substantial and critical levels of need under the Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) criteria. This will affect over 3,000 people in Westminster with ‘moderate’ needs. The Council is also planning to close the day service for younger adults with physical disabilities at 42 Westbourne Park Road.

Voluntary Groups

Westminster Council is cutting over £1 million from Voluntary Sector grants over the next two years, a cut of 25%. The figures show that over £630,000 of grants is being cut from the Adult and Community Services budget and £425,000 of grants cut from the Children's Services budget.

The biggest cut is £169,000 from the Arts and Recreation budget and represents a 34% cut, followed by a £94,000 cut from the Older People grants to voluntary organisations. Nearly £60,000 (39%) is being cut from the financial support given to Information and Advice agencies at a time when vulnerable residents will need more help to cope with debts and increased homelessness.

The figures obtained by Labour Councillors from Council officers reveal the following cuts;
"Reduction to Commissioning Budgets previously allocated to Voluntary Sector Grants
 Adult & Community Services – Reductions in 2011/12
Provisional reductions:
Commissioning Area
Reduction  (£)
Reduction (%)
Adult Learning
Information & Advice
Learning Disabilities
Mental Health
Older People
Physical Disabilities
Arts & Culture
Community Centres
VCS Infrastructure
(£80,000 increase)
Total 2011/12
Planned in 2012/13
24% (total reduction from 2010/11)

Children's Services

Reduction (£)
Reduction (%)
Planned in 2012/13
21% (total reduction from 2010/11)

Homeless People

Westminster City Council is planning to cut £967,000 in help to homeless people over the next two years. Over the next two years Westminster Council plans to cut £784,000 in 2011/12 and a further £183,000 in 2012/13.

Supporting People funding is a preventative measure that provides housing-related support to vulnerable people and saves money for both the Government and local councils. DCLG research has calculated that Supporting People funding saves the public purse over twice as much as it costs. In Westminster, for example, St Mungo’s operates a number of accommodation based services, including a project for teenage parents, two projects for people with complex needs with a history of rough sleeping and a number of mental health semi-independent housing schemes, which could face difficulties in the future as a result of the cuts.


Westminster Council tenants face an inflation-busting rent rise on Monday 4th April 2011 when the average rent will increase by 6.61% - £6.48p per week. This will cost the average Council tenant £337 a year extra.


  • Library closure - St James’s Library will close from September to save £357,000. The saving is from stock, staffing and other operating costs. 
  • Charing Cross Library will close and move to Westminster Reference Library to save £200,000 on reduced premises costs and staff saving
  • Reduced stock budget.  £250,000 will be saved over 4 years - this is 40% reduction over the 4 years.  There will be fewer new books and other resources, significant reduction in multiple copies.  Customers will wait longer to get their choice. Range and quality of stock is a key customer satisfaction driver. 
  • Reduce Archives, Reference and Information provision. £175,000 will be saved over 4 years.  This will mostly be from staff savings, including a number of posts already vacant, plus stock.  Some can be achieved through efficiencies, but there will also be some service reductions.
  • Reduce lending staffing by 4 posts.
 Director of Libraries, David Ruse told his staff;

 “I appreciate that the next few months are not going to be easy.  As well as the personal impact on you, customers are going to be concerned and annoyed about the changes, not just in libraries and registrars, but across council services.”

Street Sweeping and Refuse Collection

Plans to cut £4.4 million from Westminster Council’s street sweeping and refuse collection budget over the next two years will lead to dirtier streets in the West End and in residential streets. The Council’s proposals include;
  •  Removal of 26 additional summer cleansing staff - £400K
  • Street cleansing service reductions - £2,285K in 2011/12 and £915K in 2012/13
  • Reduced household waste and recycling collections - £840K
Council officers say that the impact of these cuts would be as follows;

In the West End & other predominantly commercial streets
  • The Council currently deploys 26 additional sweepers in the summer to deal with increased litter, alfresco drinking and dining etc. during May – September. This would cease.
  • A reduction in afternoon/evening cleaning
  • A reduced capacity to clean and empty litter bins
  • A diminished capacity to maintain routine services when they are disrupted by special events, demonstrations etc.
  • A diminished capacity to deliver salting and gritting services (particularly on footways) during periods of snow and ice.
In Residential Areas
  • Frequency of street sweeping reduced from current 3-5 times a week (depending on location) to once or twice a week, city-wide
  • Removal of litter bins (which are emptied by street sweepers)
  • Reduced frequency of collections of household waste in those streets that currently receive more than 2 doorstep collections per week
  •  Reduced frequency of recycling collections from mansion blocks and housing estates.
Paul Dimoldenberg
Leader of the Labour Group
Westminster City Council

Is Westminster addicted to cuts and allergic to its residents?

As Westminster Council enters it's 7th phase of cuts, redundancies and reorganisation since 2008 (phase 5b); the director of libraries David Ruse announces his intention to close St. James Library, merge Charing Cross Library with the Westminster Reference Library, and sell Marylebone Library as well as reducing the library stock budget by 40%, and replace staff with self service machines in as many of libraries as possible and then further merging Westminster Libraries with two other local authorities as part of a Triborough project with planned cuts of another £1.6M in the next four years and yet the consultation process has been this.....

Instead of this....


Westminster's officers' over reliance on the internet, blackberry and self-service machines has led to co-operate agrophobia, which has councillors and directors hiding from the public who's money they happily spend. Despite the plethora of restructures reorganisations and redundancies, there has been no meaningful consultation with library users or other members of the public, and both the press and members of the public have been excluded from 8 out of 9 cabinet meetings in the last 8 months. 

This is completely unacceptable since the cabinet should be a key opportunity for the public to meet with their representatives and advise them on how we would like our money to be spent and on what services.
Labour Councillor Paul Dimonldenburg has said “The closure of the St James’s Library is an act of civic vandalism which would not be necessary if the Council had not spent nearly £4 million on 12 temporary staff, all of whom cost the Council over £500 a day”.  

On the 21st February at 7pm, a group of library staff customers and residents gathered outside Westminster city hall to lobby and protest the spending cuts as a Rolls Royce with a personalised T 22 plate pulled up, and the cabinet members poured into the building through the front and back entrance.

Evening Standard article 

Westminster Chronicle article

It was decided that losing £17.5M to Icelandic banks and £20M in profits for parking due to individuals choosing to obey the law, and paying senior temporary members of staff over £500 per day (one staff member earning £745 per day for the last 6 years) without an increase in council tax was unavoidable and a natural consequence of the world created by the bankers. They therefore gave their preliminary approval of all the proposed cuts and efficiencies including those mentioned above.

On Wednesday 2nd March, the cabinet will be meeting again to rubber stamp the proposals,

We are therefore urging everyone to join our lobby of the Cabinet on Wednesday the 2nd March 2011 at 6pm outside Marylebone's Council House building, 109-117 Marylebone road, London NW1 5PS, so that Councillors are made aware of the strong feelings against these closures

Friday, 18 February 2011

Lobby and Demonstration of the Cabinet on the 21st February 2011 at 6pm outside Westminster City Hall


As the first phase in a series of cuts over the next 4 years, Westminster City Council is planning to close the St James’s Library the closest public library to Parliament, in September 2011 to save £357,000. The Library, which is used extensively by local residents, local schools and local workers, was relocated to Victoria Street in the late 1990s following the closure and sale of the Great Smith Street Library, one of the oldest public libraries in London.
David Ruse director of Westminster Libraries has said “Closing St James's Library from September is one of the savings options being considered by Cabinet - this will be in the papers going to the meeting on 21 February"
There has been no consultation with library users, and both the press and members of the public have been excluded from 8/9 cabinet meetings in the last 8 months to decide what to do with our services.
“The closure of the St James’s Library is an act of civic vandalism which would not be necessary if the Council had not spent nearly £4 million on 12 temporary staff, all of whom cost the Council over £500 a day” Paul Dimoldenburg
We are therefore urging everyone to join our lobby of the Cabinet on the 21st February 2011 at 6pm outside Westminster City Hall so that Councillors are made aware of the strong feelings against these closures.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Westminster Council spends nearly £4m on twelve temporary staff

'Westminster Conservatives are spending £3,973,952 on 12 temporary staff, all of whom cost the cash-strapped Council over £500 a day. The highest paid temporary staff member, a Temporary Head of Regeneration and Partnerships, costs the Council £745 a day and has cost £453,446 for the 608 days the person has worked for the Council. A Senior Project Manager, costing £600 a day, has cost the Council £852,600 for 1,421 days’ work, while a Senior Business Analyst, costing £521 a day, has cost the Council £827,400 for 1,588 days’ work.
Overall, the Council spends £10.5 million a year on temporary staff and is planning to cut £52 million from the Council’s budget over the next two years.'

Westminster Council’s Cabinet stops meeting in public

'Westminster City Council’s ten person Cabinet has met only once in public in the last 8 months, while secret sessions, closed to the public and press, have met on eight separate occasions. The agendas and papers prepared for the secret Cabinet meetings are not available to the public, the press or to Opposition Labour Councillors.'

Saturday, 12 February 2011


Got off to a positive start at Mayfair Library.A number of customers resquested information regarding the librarary cuts in Westminster. However, there are no firm proposals as yet. The 'Save all of Westminster Libraries' group held a demonstration/petition outside of Mayfair Library from 12-2. They collected 6 pages of names for the petition.There was a lively debate among the public regarding the value of libraries in the community. A few of them taking out extra books to support the library.
The Coalition Government has announced that all local authorities must make a saving of 27% within the next 4 years.
Despite prior reductions in staffing numbers to introduce self-service machines in almost half the libraries in Westminster, and the systematic reduction in staffing numbers inline with the council's ideological aims, Westminster Libraries was asked to prepare for the reduction of 25%-40% of its service.
Yet so far, the council has only announced the closing of Charing cross and St James' Library. Why?
The council considers it prudent to Wait until 2012 to announce major cuts to Libraries once momentum in the national movement to defend libraries dies down, and further to not draw public attention to major cuts to other council services.
In the mean time, more staff jobs will be axed to introduce more self-service machines, stock budgets are slashed, staff contracts are under fire and the threat of volunteers running the service has not quite disappeared.
The council has offered no concrete commitments to protect the service or it's employees despite having over 100 staff members working on austerity measures since before November 2010.