Kaye Wiggins reports from the public budget consultation at Lambeth Town Hall last night
At a noisy meeting in the town hall last night, Lambeth residents vented their frustration about the £79m in cuts that the council will make from its £310m budget over the next three years.
The council’s plan for the event, a public consultation attended by about 60 residents, was that local people would suggest how they thought it should make the cuts. They could do this by writing their thoughts on a ‘post-it note wall’ and a ‘graffiti wall’.
The night didn’t get off to an easy start for the council. A Unison member interrupted during the introduction. “Labour councillors met last night and agreed to a detailed budget,” he said. “We have a right to know what they decided. Otherwise this meeting is a waste of our time.”
When several members of the audience applauded the Unison man, councillor Paul McGlone tried to explain. “Details of the meeting will be online tomorrow morning,” he said, causing an outcry that set the tone for much of the evening.
But when people were separated into small groups later on, they started talking more quietly about the services that should be spared from cuts. Libraries, children’s services and housing emerged as the big priorities.
McGlone told the residents the council had not made any final decisions on its budget, and would use their feedback to help it decide on its priorities before it announced the final figures on 23 February. He said the council particularly wanted to protect its budgets for children’s services, crime, schools, better homes and helping people to get back into work.
Nobody mentioned the council’s controversial adverts for the consultation process, which said: “The government has cut our money so we are forced to cut services.” But messages on the graffiti wall, like the one below might send a signal to the council about it.