Thursday, 24 February 2011

Cuts Concern letters

Bromley Cuts Concern network organiser Ann Garrett wrote, in a personal capacity, to Bromley Council leader Stephen Carr this week. This is Ann's letter and a response from Cllr Carr's office. 
Dear Cllr Carr,
I am very concerned about Bromley's proposed cuts, as it would appear that the most vulnerable people in the Borough will be most affected.
I understand that you are under pressure from the Government, but would like to suggest some  constructive ideas :-
1.  Cutting pay for top council executives.
2.  Cutting down on glossy PR information.
3.  Reducing council fuel bills by making schools, libraries and other buildings more energy efficient.
4.  Working closely with other public sector bodies to cut administrative costs.
5.  Ensuring council reserves are kept to the bare minimum recommended nationally and using some of the reserves to invest in projects that will produce savings in later years, and create new jobs.
 6.  Selling unwanted property and abandoning costly IT schemes.
You could also use your local council position influence with the Government to close the deficit by clamping down on tax avoidance, tax evasion, and failure to collect taxes. More than £100 billion a year in tax revenue is lost in these ways. £76 billion is also due to be spent on Trident renewal, another highly dangerous, polluting and costly venture.
Talking to various people and organisations in Bromley, the majority would be prepared to pay more council tax in order to save the public services under threat such as libraries, family, children's, connexions and youth centres, funding for services for the elderly, school crossing patrols, school clothing grants, and public toilets.
These cuts would be a false economy, so I urge the Council to reconsider its very unpopular proposals.
Yours sincerely,
Ann Garrett

Dear Ann Garrett
Thank you for your email which Cllr Carr has read with interest.   Responding to your suggestions
1.  We have taken £3m out of middle and higher management in the last couple of years, with more to come next year including reducing the number of directors. This is combined with another pay freeze (and the same for councillors' allowances.)
2.  Im comparison with other London Boroughs our PR budget is acknowledged to be relatively modest, but nonetheless this is certainly an area we have pruned even further, including a reduction in the number of staff employed in PR.
3.   Energy efficiency is one of the Council's main priorities.  It is investing £500k on energy saving projects.  The Council has already cut £80k of its annual spend by reducing the electrical voltage in its buildings and ensuring street signs are only lit when it is dark.  Further projects are planned which should save an additional £140k each year, including switching to more energy efficient lighting, replacing some energy intensive air conditioning with evaporataive cooling and buying software for improving the way the Council manages its computers.   They are considered to be invest to save projects to demonstrate the Council's commitment to ensuring efficiency savings help protect frontline services during a time of austerity.
4.  Talks are already taking place with some of our neighbours such as Croydon and Bexley to actively explore sharing services.
5.  The question of the Council's reserves is often mentioned.  However, the Council believes that using more of its reserves would be short-sighted as the interest  accrued is actually supporting our services in the 2011/12 budget, as it has in previous years.
6.  In November, in what was a first for London, we joined forces with Lewisham Council to purchase our ICT support services from a single provider, resulting in significant combined annual savings - in Bromley's case, around £500,000 a year, amounting to a 25 per cent saving on that budget. This innovative venture can also act as a starting point from which we can deliver other ICT projects together and continue to provide a more effective service at a lower cost.
Cllr Carr fully takes your point about lobbying the Government to clamp down on tax avoidance  With regard to the local Council Tax, we are pleased to report that Bromley has a good track record with the majority of the money being collected on an annual basis.  For the small percentage of residents that do not pay we do pursue this rigorously and in the worse case scenario they are taken to court.
Your point about people being willing to pay a higher Council Tax is acknowledged, but I have to advise that we are governed by Central Government in this regard.  If a Council exceeds the percentage increase they set each year, then financial penalties are imposed on local authorities.
I hope the above information is helpful.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Bromley Market Square protest Saturday, February 19

Saturday's protesters with placards, petitions and leaflets...
and front & back of leaflet distributed to residents and shoppers...

Thanks to Tahrir Swift for photo and Bill Kerry for leaflet

Monday, 14 February 2011

Bromley Times photostory

Bromley Cuts Concern protest at the civic centre, from left to right John Street, Colin Clarey, Michael Weller and Ann Garret 
Bromley Cuts Concern protest at the civic centre, from left to right  Michael Weller,  John Street, Colin Clary, and

Ann Garret Ann Garrett
Bromley Cuts Concern was formed to scrutinise and oppose some of the £35million spending cuts proposed by the council.
The group, led by the Green Party activist Ann Garrett, hopes that as many people as possible will support them in Market Square, Bromley, on February 19. They will also be lobbying councillors at a meeting of the Executive at the civic centre on Monday.
Mr Weller, of Queen Adelaide Road, Penge, said: “We want to create a public profile to make residents think that something can be done about this attack on our services.
“Under this budget it is the younger generation that are the target, and anything that strikes at the young and the elderly doesn’t bode well.”
Councillors are currently considering a raft of ‘savings’ including the closure of all but three children’s centres, ‘deleting’ lollipop ladies and cutting back on care services in what has been called a ‘Valentine’s Day Massacre’ by Bromley Cuts Concern.
Once the executive members have passed the proposed budget on Monday it will be up to the full council to finally ratify it at a meeting on February 28.
On Monday Phil Hoby, chairman of St Mary’s Pre-School in Hayes, handed a petition with over 500 names to Bromley council objecting to plans to scrap school crossing patrols and mother-of-one Rita Shipley, 38, has begun a petition to save threatened Burnt Ash Lane children’s centre.

Founding statement

Bromley Cuts Concern has been formed to scrutinise and, where necessary, oppose the forthcoming cuts programme to be implemented by Bromley Council. We seek to be a broad, community-based group of concerned residents, independent of any political party. We believe that the best way to cut the country’s deficit would be to clamp down on tax evasion, tighten up tax avoidance loopholes and address the appalling under-collection of taxes. Combined, these could generate up to £100 billion a year according to the New Economics Foundation. Action on tax would mainly affect those better able to pay whereas cutting public expenditure disproportionately hits the poor. If you agree and want to get involved in Bromley Cuts Concern, please email <>

This was the unpublished letter of introduction to Bromley Cuts Concern, addressed to local media, composed by Bill Kerry of the Equality Trust and signed by COLIN CLARY, RICHARD COMAISH, ANN GARRETT, RICHARD HART, BILL KERRY, ANGIE STACK, MICHAEL WELLER in January 2011.