At September’s (13 September 2023) Ealing Council Cabinet meeting, Ealing Liberal Democrats have challenged the Labour-run council over its spending and its “inability to manage the council effectively”.
Ealing LibDems highlighted a number of areas where there has been overspent in the first three months of the financial year.
Among the overspend is Strategy & Change (9%), Adult Social Care & Public Health (16%), Children’s Services including Social Care & Schools (10%), Economy & Sustainability which includes House building programmes (11%) and Housing & Environment (30%).
A recent report by the BBC has found councils on average are facing a £33m predicted deficit by 2025-26 – a rise of 60% from £20m two years ago. But according to the BBC, the London Borough of Ealing is predicted a deficit by 2025-26 (£m) of £60m which is almost twice that of the average and £20m above the next nearest London Council (Camden).
According to LibDems, the overspend has occurred even with a £40m uplift and reprofiling of spend from last year.
In Housing and Environment, the council was fined £3,400 by the Local Government and Social Care ombudsman for its failure to safely house a family. Another 31 families, housed in temporary accommodation may also have a claim against the council as well.
In Children’s Services the council spent almost as much on staff (£2.9m) as on its Looked after Children (£3.3m) plus increasing costs of £1.3m Home to School Transport. In a statement, Ealing LibDems commented: “Ealing Council needs to define and implement a clear strategic skill development plan for their workforce.”
Liberal Democrat Councillor Gary Busuttil, Opposition Spokesperson on Finance and Resources said: “Liberal Democrats say that some of the issues we are seeing today are down to the challenging environment but some are down to the lack of management oversight by the current Labour administration. It smacks of arrogance to consistently blame others for their inability to manage the council effectively.”
An Ealing Council spokesperson told EALING.NEWS: “The Council, like our residents and other local authorities, is facing significant challenges with the current high rate of inflation and rising interest rates, both of which greatly affect the costs of the services that we provide for our residents including significantly increased costs in social care services as well as the additional pressure surrounding the availability and cost of temporary accommodation.
“There is enormous pressure in housing, especially in Ealing as we are the location for temporary hotel accommodation for Afghan refugees, who now are shamefully set to no longer receive support from the Government.
“It is indeed this Government’s intention that local councils, like Ealing, will have to pick up the bill. We are undertaking a number of projects and programmes to seek to manage and reduce demand, with some success, and we are in a better situation financially than a lot of other local authorities.”