Published: Thursday, 30th May 2019
Statement from Cllr Christine Grice, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources
"The BBC report that identified 11 authorities, including the Royal Borough of Greenwich, that would have "fully exhausted" reserves within four years unless they topped them up is misleading. The news report was based on analysis by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa).
"We are a well-run council and our financial policies and procedures were endorsed in last year’s independent audit, which stated that we ‘continue to maintain a robust reserves position that is stronger than the majority of other London Boroughs.’
"Most of the decrease in reserves is because as a council we are investing in regeneration projects that will create jobs and make the borough an even better place to live, work and visit. These include a landmark cultural district in Woolwich, a brand new library and leisure centre in Plumstead and the biggest council house building programme in a generation. Another big portion of the decrease is because reserves for schools is now separated out – we haven’t actually spent it.
"But we have had to make some tough decisions. Since 2010, the amount of money we receive from government has reduced and our costs have risen due to inflation and because more people need to use our services. This has left us with a £125million shortfall, or £1,400 per household. The reduction in central government funding, combined with increases in costs, means, unless we do something about it, we will face a growing pressure on our budget of at least £7.5m every year. We’ve increased council tax by 2.99%, but we’ll still have to find ways of spending less money.
"We have saved money by making our back office processes more efficient, for example, by moving services online, and reducing the number of people we employ. We’ve got about 1,000 fewer staff than in 2010 when the Government’s cuts started.
"Everyone knows that councils clean the streets, empty bins, run schools and leisure centres, but there are lots of crucial services that we don’t have to provide but if we didn’t lots of people would suffer. We’re also stepping in when government policies have hurt people such as the disastrous effect of Universal Credit (UC). About 1,000 council tenants in Greenwich have moved over to UC and almost 80% of them are now in rent arrears, as they struggle to make ends meet.
"The Government needs to recognise the damage their cuts are doing, and give local authorities the funding needed to provide vital services to help people get on in life. That includes help for residents who are losing out as they transfer to Universal Credit, money for training and support to get people into work, and social care for our most vulnerable residents."