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Council budget: Services at risk as Havering Council aims to make drastic spending cuts

PUBLISHED: 11:30 29 August 2014

Cllr Roger Ramsey said Queen's Hospital is

Cllr Roger Ramsey said Queen's Hospital is "simply not ready" to handle services transfer from another hospital

Archant

Libraries, social care, youth services and cultural facilities are all be under fire as the council works to make £60million of savings over four years.

Cllr Roger Ramsey, leader of Havering Council, said the authority has no choice but to cut services to deliver a balanced budget.

The councils proposals, which will be scrutinised by fellow councillors and the public, include slashing the library services budget by more than £1million and the early help and troubled families service by £900,000.

If agreed the reorganisation could threaten the borough’s five remaining children’s centres.

Cllr Ramsey said: “We would like to keep these centres open because we think they are a really good local resource. What we are going to need to do is to find a balance between continuing to fund some services and charge for others.

“If the budget does not balance a year down the line we may have to reconsider.”

A decision to protect some services has been made based upon the feedback of residents’ priorities. It is proposed weekly rubbish collections, street cleaning, CCTV, street lights and park maintenance continue at current levels.

In contrast cultural facilities have seen their budgets hit. On top of the £1.138million slashed from libraries both Queen’s Theatre and Havering Music School will see their grants reduced by £200,000.

Social care for those aged between 18 and 64 has provisionally been allocated £4.45m of savings. Cllr Ramsey said it is hoped that these can be achieved by the modernisation of the service - however the future of Havering’s only day centre could not be ensured.

He said: “This is a prime area where consultation is essential. This is an area where we can do things better and achieve a saving.”

Parking charge increases have been proposed to generate £1million. If approved these will see fees outside of Romford town centre increase with free parking for the first 30 minutes introduced to protect businesses.

Savings of £400,000 may be achieved by closing the town centre information kiosk and pushing more council services online - reducing the reliance on face to face and telephone communication.

Elderly people could also be affected by proposals to cap care packages and personal budgets at the average cost of a nursing home place.

The closure of the reablement service at Royal Jubilee Court has also been proposed to achieve £410,000 of savings.

Cheryl Coppell, chief executive of Havering Council, said: “Our guarantee is that we will always look after the most vulnerable in our society and will carry out our statutory responsibilities to them and offer them the best possible services we can with the amount of money we have.”

The Recorder has given an overview of the budget proposals. In the coming months reporters will provide further analysis of those services that may be affected.

If you have concerns or questions you would like us to look into contact emma.lake@archant.co.uk 02084773903.

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