£23m package of Barking and Dagenham council cuts gets go-ahead

Cllr Rocky Gill at the cabinet meeting on Monday night

Cllr Rocky Gill at the cabinet meeting on Monday night - Credit: Archant

Swingeing spending cuts totalling £23million were given the green light by councillors this week, hitting a host of frontline services.

Assembly members, meeting on Monday, unanimously voted in favour of a two-year budget for 2013-14 and 2014-15 which will see seven park rangers axed, £120,000 slashed from voluntary-sector grants and a number of children and youth services cut.

It also means the loss of up to 200 council jobs and council newspaper The News being axed.

Some cost-cutting measures that were proposed in October last year were shelved, however, including ceasing the green bin service, closing the Broadway Theatre and reducing sheltered housing services.

It was also agreed that council tax be frozen for another year and £315m will be spent on a variety of capital programmes, with £203m of this being invested in homes and estates.

One park ranger, who did not want to be named, voiced dismay at the cuts to the ranger service, saying: “It’s very sad. I’m afraid that many of the parks, especially the smaller ones, won’t get the attention that they need now. The number of volunteers will also shrink as there won’t be enough people to lead them.”

Jean Burnett, 65, lives in sheltered housing in Padnell Road, Chadwell Heath. She said: “I’m pleased they’re not going ahead with the sheltered housing cuts, but I won’t hold my breath. Eventually they’ll happen.”

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Deputy council leader Rocky Gill, also the cabinet member for finance, said: “We’ve had to make some tough decisions as a result of the coalition government forcing us to cut our budget by 40 per cent.

“However, we listened to the community during the public consultation phase and did not go ahead with some proposed savings and altered others.

He told the Post that there had been a “very positive response” from the community during the public consultation phase, when residents were asked what should stay and what should go.

“We had around 100 people email or write letters to us,” he said. “About 150 people turned up to the leader and deputy leader’s questions and around 300 attended the scrutiny meetings.

“A lot of people felt very strongly about the green bins, asking for them to remain, and for the scrutiny meeting on sheltered housing, two coaches full of elderly people turned up to voice their concerns.”

The cuts take effect from April 1.

What do you think of the cuts? Email postnewsdesk@archant.co.uk or call 020 8477 3900.