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

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