The ghosts of the past return as Lib Dem-Tories cut Lambeth’s funding

Last night Lambeth’s Labour cabinet agreed a draft budget for the coming year. The proposals will now go forward to a full council meeting in February where the final decision will be taken. The Tory-led Government, backed up by Liberal Democrats, is unfairly cutting Lambeth’s funding by one third over the next four years, with £37m cuts raining down in the coming year alone. These are the deepest cuts in public spending since the Second World War, and they are only happening because the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, spectacularly broke his election promise that there would be no cuts this year if his party was in power.

The draft budget does the best we can in this dreadful situation. The £37m funding reduction only affects £13m frontline services because our Labour councillors worked long and hard to cut costs before cutting services. That’s bad enough of course, but it means £24m frontline services have been spared.

At the cabinet meeting held in the town hall a large crowd of protesters turned up.  Most of them were people worried about their jobs and services, ordinary Lambeth residents and employees who every Labour councillor sympathises with.  They spoke movingly and with compassion about their fears over the Government’s funding cuts.  But among them was a core of the hard-left and at their head was Ted Knight.  It was Knight who led Lambeth into disaster in the 1980s when his council set an illegal budget in response to that decade’s wave of Tory cuts. Knight’s policy left the council millions of pounds in debt, made Labour unelectable in much of Lambeth for over a decade, but worst of all bought our council to its knees as it eventually resulted in even worse service cuts that hit the poorest, the weakest and most vulnerable hardest of all. The policy was an unmitigated disaster. But Ted Knight and his hard-left acolytes were back in the town hall last night demanding a re-run of their 1980s horror show.

Today’s Labour councillors will never take Lambeth back to the dark days when people like Ted Knight ruined local services. The corruption, mismanagement and abuse of people that happened under their regime remains legendary. Local people are still paying off the multi-million pound debts from their chaotic exercise in self-indulgent extremism. Real people in Lambeth are facing real problems and they need more than gesture politics. The vast and sensible majority in Lambeth know that pushing our council into bankruptcy with an illegal budget, which Knight and others again demanded, would lead to disaster just like it did last time. It would also play right into the Tories’ hands because they are achingly desperate for a Labour council to run up the white flag and let Government-imposed administrators take over.  In a strange way these hard-left extremists are the natural companions of hard-right extremists in Government like Eric Pickles.  When you get one you get the other, and our job, caught in the middle, is to prevent either side wreaking the havoc of which they are capable.

The budget Labour put forward is not one we wanted because we believe the Tories and Lib Dems are wrong to target poorer areas like ours with the biggest share of cuts.   But since we cannot spend money we no longer have, the budget prioritises services for the most vulnerable including the most needy older and disabled people, it puts more police on the streets to keep people safe, it invests money to build better homes, new schools, and help unemployed people back to work. There is pain as some hard-working employees will lose their jobs and some treasured services will close.  We share local people’s anger over this, but it is the inevitable result of Nick Clegg’s decision to make a bonfire of his promises to prop up a Tory Government.  We serve Lambeth’s residents best by standing up for them within the law, protecting the services that matter most to them, working to defeat the Lib Dem-Tories at the ballot box, and by refusing to retread the path that Ted Knight led this borough down all those years ago – a path that led over the edge of a cliff and into ruin.

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About Steve Reed MP

I'm Labour Member of Parliament for Croydon North after being elected in a by-election in November 2012. Before that I was Leader of Lambeth Council since 2006, and was a councillor for Brixton Hill from 1998 to 2012.
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14 Responses to The ghosts of the past return as Lib Dem-Tories cut Lambeth’s funding

  1. Jon Rogers says:

    Steve,

    Do you seriously mean to suggest that the leadership of the Tenants’ Council, the Pensioners’ Action Group and all the town hall trade unions are simply “far left extremists”? The passion with which you condemn your perception of what happened in Lambeth in the 1980s would surely be put to better use condemning what is going on in Westminster and Whitehall in 2011.

    • cllrsteve says:

      Jon – of course not! If you read this and the other posts on this site you will see very clearly that I blame the Tories and Lib Dems for targeting cuts on Lambeth in a way that is wholly unfair and unjust. This blog is about why the mistakes of the past that you are advocating today setting an illegal budget – make the situation worse, not better. We are trying to do our best for local people while fighting the Government within the law. Rather than compare us with people who sent Jews, Gipsies and gay people to be gassed, which is what you did last night, it would be better if you stood alongside us against this Government. They love nothing more than seeing us fight each other. I thought Bill Modlock from the GMB made his points with compassion and integrity, whereas yours were inappropriate.

  2. Aidan says:

    amazing that you blame the left and not the tories, lib dems and their banker cronies. New Labour through and through. Shame on you.

    • cllrsteve says:

      Aidan – I’m not sure you’ve actually read what I wrote. I completely blame the Lib Dems and Tories for the scale of cuts, and the bankers for causing this whole crisis in the first place. Have a look at some of the other posts that make this crystal clear.

  3. Rhys Price says:

    Hello Steve

    I was outside the Town Hall with a small group of People First Lambeth members who where able to have their say, about their plight, now that your administration has cut more than 95% of their organisation’s funding. Other protestors included children, Park Rangers and pensioners.

    If you would like to get a flavour of what some of the people with learning disabilities had to say outside last night then please follow this link to You Tube and a film they have made in the last week.

    Please tell us if you find it extreme?

    • cllrsteve says:

      Rhys – no, I do not think people protesting about Tory-Lib Dem funding cuts are extreme. I agree with them. What is extreme is Ted Knight’s demand that we follow his disastrous tactics from the 1980s that hurt people even more. We are doing out best to protect services, but when the Government cuts our budget by a third we can’t protect everything. I have every sympathy with you, but let’s put the blame for this where it really belongs – at the door of Clegg, Cameron and Osborne.

  4. Pingback: Knight Of The Living Dead | According to Mark

  5. Chris says:

    I agree with every word Steve. Let’s put the blame where it belongs – with the Conservative – LibDem coalition who are trying to pay of the mortgage in 5 years. Madness. Ted Knight never had a solution, just a posture.

  6. Very nice!

    Keep up the good work, people need quality web content to read and see 🙂

  7. cllrsteve says:

    I’ve changed the title of this post after some readers misread the original title – which referred to extremists like Eric Pickles and Ted Knight – as referring to Lambeth residents, which it did not.

  8. cllrsteve says:

    As a footnote, this excellent article by Labour Councillor Luke Akehurst explains how the ultra-left groups, who were attempting to orchestrate genuine residents’ groups at the cabinet meeting, are trying to divide the anti-cuts movement for their own extremist purposes. http://www.progressives.org.uk/columns/column.asp?c=592

  9. Arjun Mittra says:

    An excellent post Steve, well reasoned and argued. I completely agree that the last thing we should do to fight these unfair cuts are to emulate the 1980’s horror show. We need to prove that we are capable and prudent administrators and can deal with the settlement that we have been handed, whilst showing how unfair the settlement is. Illegal budgets and extremism will only make the Tories look responsible and moderate in comparison and hand them victory. Congratulations on the excellent job you are doing.

  10. Donna Pearson says:

    Steve, I agree the ConDems are ultimately to blame. However, you must take responsibility for the draconian cuts in Lambeth and the way that these have been handled. In the case of People First Lambeth- an organisation with huge national recognition for excellence e.g. by Social Care Institute for Excellence comments have been made casting aspersions on the quality of the organisation. Only 10 weeks notice was given after 26 years and no-one from the council has commented positively on the work that has been done over the last 26 years. The work includes employment of people with learning difficulties; running groups in Lambeth Social Service Day Centres; Support for the Partnership Board and work around hate crime and abuse. People with learning difficulties who have come to People First for 26 years are deeply hurt by this treatment and this is your responsibility.

    • cllrsteve says:

      Thank you for your message Donna. Here is a response on this point from Cllr Jim Dickson, Cabinet Member for Health:

      “Lambeth has been given an impossible task by central government. The unprecedented £37 million of government cuts to Lambeth’s funding of this year means we are facing some extremely difficult and painful choices.

      We’ve worked hard to protect funding for dozens of organisations that do important work with vulnerable adults across the borough, but for a number of reasons we have had to take the decision not to renew our contracts with People First Lambeth (PFL). The government cuts mean we have had to look even more carefully at every penny we spend, but the amount we are proposing to save from services for people with learning disabilities is around £200,000. This is less than one per cent of our total spending in this area. We will of course be working with PFL to make sure their clients are directed to other sources of support.

      PFL was contracted by the council to provide services and the contracts were up for renewal in April 2011; as such, PFL did not receive any ‘grant funding’. These contracts were worth approximately £118,000 a year, and unfortunately, PFL have not developed any alternative income streams. The Council is very conscious that not renewing their contract will put this organisation in difficulty and, in recognition of this, the Council has suggested that PFL apply to a special fund that we have set up to support voluntary sector organisations in Lambeth that are in this position. ACS has agreed that they will match fund what PFL are awarded from the transitions fund, in recognition of its unique and difficult position at this time.

      I hope this addresses your concerns, though I realise you are likely to be disappointed with this response. To put this decision in context, Lambeth will still be spending more than £30 million next year on vital services for people with learning disabilities, including supporting a range of independent organisations that work across Lambeth. This vulnerable group is still a huge priority and we wish to continue to support paid roles for Adults with Learning Disabilities, and will work with PFL to support this.”

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