Budget cuts revealed by Waltham Forest Council

Waltham Forest Council has published a series of “budget reductions” and “tactical management actions” to cut spending by £18million over the next two years.

The cuts were revealed this week in Waltham Forest’s 2024/25 budget, which sets out the council’s spending plans for the year starting in April.

Most of the 105 reductions and actions are summarised in single sentences in a document that lists savings ranging in size from £5,000 all the way to £1.8m.

According to a statement by Waltham Forest’s chief financial officer Rob Manning, the savings were agreed as early as November last year in a bid to close a budget gap of up to £30m over the next three financial years.

Mr Manning said the council is facing “unprecedented levels of demand” on its services – particularly adult social care, children’s welfare, special needs support and temporary housing.

The cuts, some of which are summarised below, will impact a range of services including care and support for the elderly, services for the disabled, temporary housing for homeless families and council departments such as the communications team.

They do not include the council’s voluntary staff redundancy scheme, which aims to save £2.5m.

The cuts include a number of “reviews” of adult social care costs such as financial assessments, residential care, and short-term placements which will save about £4.5m. The budget also reveals a £1.4m reduction in care costs for children by making sure residential care packages are only used “where appropriate”, while the council plans to generate £1.1m by increasing parking fees and other charges.

The council will look for opportunities for “additional commercial return” of about £500,000 by reviewing the council’s 300 properties, which could include selling buildings or “asset-led service transformation”.

A plan to save £999,700 by “reduction and efficiency” in the council’s housing options and support service, which works with residents seeking help with homelessness, is also included.

Ten of the cuts will require consultations, either of council staff or borough residents. These cuts are:

Reviewing operating model for libraries service including offering greater open access for residents – £550,000

Efficiencies from closure of part of the town hall campus on days of low utilisation to reduce asset running costs (utilities and other running costs) – £80,000

Review operating model of reuse and recycling centres across the borough – no estimate

Review of learning disabilities day opportunities – £400,000

Realignment of grant funding for free swimming for over 60s and children – £175,000

Review activity and implement new operating model for Fellowship Square and civic events – £140,000

Review summer activity programme to ensure better focus of delivery – £100,000

Reduction of payments to Capital Letters by using alternative accommodation providers for homes for use as temporary accommodation and to discharge homelessness duty – £60,000

Revise the scope of the private rented sector support service – £50,000

Fixed annual allocation of community infrastructure levy and neighbourhood community infrastructure levy to area regeneration in place of reserves – £200,000

Councillors are expected to publicly discuss the plans at a budget and performance scrutiny committe on Tuesday 20th February, ahead of a vote by all councillors on 29th February.

The full list of cuts is available at this link: https://democracy.walthamforest.gov.uk/documents/s94355/1e%20-%20Appendix%204%20-%20Budget%20Reductions%20Management%20Actions.pdf

To read the budget papers, visit this link: https://democracy.walthamforest.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=725&MId=5729

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter