Adult Social Services in Lewisham are facing several challenges at the moment, not least the ability to stay within the budgets set by Council. The Mayor & Cabinet initially proposed to set up more restrictions on who could get help from social services, increase charges for social services, and finally to put a financial limit on the amount of care individuals who chose to live at home equal to the cost of providing care in a residential home. We rejected these proposals on a point of principle - care should continue to focus on equality of service outcomes rather than a “one size fits all” approach implied by the cuts package. We provided a secure way of paying for these services by using Lewisham's reserves to pay for the shortfall in funding - the Mayor agreed with us at his Cabinet meeting on 22 February and as a result there will be money to pay for these essential services for the time being. We have to now ensure that the proposed consultation to implement the above changes is formally rejected by the Mayor to protect these vulnerable in later years.
Having listened to us on Social Services, we're hoping he'll be in a listening mood when it comes to our other proposals.
The Green's budget proposals also included funding for a garden waste project to significantly increase the amount collected; ring-fencing money within the advertising & marketing budget to promote recycling, energy conservation & other sustainability issues; an additional £60,000 for renewable energy installations in all schools in Energy Action Zones; participating in the Real Nappies scheme and providing vouchers to 200 Lewisham families; setting up a loyalty card scheme for local shops in help revitalise local shopping parades and enhance our town centres; and practical initiatives to encourage recycling of commercial waste by reducing the collection fees for recycled waste.
We are also proposing to reduce Lewisham's £10,000 a year grant to the New Local Government Network. This a think-tank set up to basically campaign for the introduction of Mayors and the Mayoral system of local government...see my earlier post on the Bring Back Democracy Campaign for my views on this.
Overall our budget proposals would result in a 2.73% increase in Lewisham's proportion of the Council Tax, which is fractionally higher than the Mayor's 2.5% original proposals. I am very pleased that the Mayor has seen sense on the issue of Social Services and agreed that the cuts in services to some of the most vulnerable in Lewisham have, for the time being, been reversed.
The Council's budget meeting is 1 March 2007 at 19:30. If you're coming to watch, bring a flask & some sandwiches - the meeting could be a long one.