Who will be affected by Havering’s culture cuts?
PUBLISHED: 18:00 12 October 2014
Havering Council has launched its consultation for a proposed £60million of savings in its budget report – but what effect will it actually have on people’s lives? To find out, we have spoken to councillors and officers to highlight the reality of the cuts. This week, Sam Gelder talks to cabinet member for culture, Cllr Melvin Wallace
Havering Council has launched its consultation for the proposed £60m of savings in its budget report, but what effect will it actually have on people’s day-to-day lives?
To find out, the Recorder has spoken with councillors and officers to highlight the reality of the cuts. This week, Sam Gelder sat down with cabinet minister for culture, Cllr Melvin Wallace, to discuss his area.
The council have said there will be a “phased reduction” in the grant given to the Queen’s Theatre, saving them £200,000 over two years.
Council staff are in talks with theatre chairman Dennis Rycroft over a range of ideas developed to help the community venue generate new income, while discussions with Arts Council England are also taking place.
One of these ideas is to take performances on the road and work with other theatres to put on shows and generate income.
Simon Parkinson, head of children’s and leisure services, said: “It will be difficult but we can see a way.”
Cllr Wallace added it was “vitally important” the theatre remained.
A hefty £1.14million is hoped to be saved from the library service. The proposals would see all 10 of the borough’s libraries remain open, but with six of them slashing opening hours by half to 25.
The council wants volunteers to play a “more significant role” in delivering the services, including the housebound service, the reader development team and the local studies and family history service.
Of the 94 library staff, 50 will lose their jobs, including 23 of the 53 full time workers.
Simon Parkinson said: “It won’t necessarily mean people losing their jobs, some will be retiring naturally, some will be moved to other areas. The proposals are not for a year and a half.
“Reader development will maintain one post to coordinate the management and do some of the work.”
On the possibility of a lack of volunteers, and what that would mean, Cllr Wallace said: “We have 380 volunteers at the moment, that’s 38 per library. We are very confident we’ll find them.”
A 50p charge for one hours use of a library computer is also proposed. The machines are used by members of the community to apply for jobs, and by residents who do not have computers at home.
Cllr Wallace said: “50p for an hour, what’s a fizzy drink price? It’s the same price as a fizzy drink.”
Havering Music School:
Another £200,000 saving is proposed for Havering Music School. New ways of working such as introducing an online payment system and cutting schools out of the organisation process are being launched as a resolution to cash flow problems.
The school will also have its own website and better marketing to promote the service.
Cllr Wallace said: “The music director is so proactive. It’s not just for children now it’s for adults too. I might try and learn the piano.
“It will make a profit. Parents will be paying a bit more but getting more hours. It is expanding.”
The reputation of Havering’s parks, nine of which are Gren Flag holders, will be maintained with continued funding, but the council hopes to raise £300,000 through parking charges.
Cllr Wallace said: “In the out of town car parks we want the first half hour to be free and after that £1 for a couple of hours.”
When asked about busy periods such as park football and the possibility that people will park, for free, in residential streets, he added: “They could well do, but we’ve got to save all this money.
“There’s 250,000 people in Havering and only two or three have come to me. If we made bin collection fortnightly we’d have 100,000 coming to me.”
A couple of jobs may be sacrificed, though both Mr Parkinson and Cllr Wallace insist the employees would be given roles elsewhere.
Fairkytes Arts Centre:
Fairkytes will remain open but charges for room hire will be raised in order to save £100,000. Weekly concerts also look set to be introduced, as the council aim to push the centre to the forefront of the arts community.
Cllr Wallace said: “I’d love to see it developed further with an extension, in the long term. An art gallery.”
The council will be reducing funding to arts organisations such as the Romford Contemporary Arts Programme (RCAP), which has already secured new funding as its contract with the authority was due to expire.
Youth Services / myplace:
“Substantial” reductions to the tune of £866,000 will mean the council no longer provides “general youth activities, advice and support to all young people in the borough.”
Work with young people most at risk of falling into crime or becoming victims of abuse would continue under children’s services, and the council’s Troubled Families scheme.
On the prospect of the service being overworked, Mr Parkinson said: “They are a big service it shouldn’t be an extra burden.”
Myplace in Harold Hill will remain open and continue to offer activities to young people, but the management will change as £100,000 in savings are made.
Cllr Wallace said: “Kids have got so many options these days. When I was a kid we didn’t have a youth service.”
The youth service consultation will be launched in November.
Let us know your thoughts on the savings. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8477 3810.