Job cuts likely as Lewisham looks to make huge savings

By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter

Committee members urged Lewisham council to make staff part-time rather than make them redundant after it set out draft budget cuts.

The council needs to save £40 million over the next three years, and “at least” £24 million in cuts will be made next year.

It has identified £15 million for next year and is set to publish the next round in January, ahead of full council in February.

Kevin Sheehan, executive director of housing, regeneration, and environment, presented the details and context of the draft cuts to the sustainable development committee on Thursday.

The council is proposing to make £1.5 million in three years from introducing new controlled parking zones (CPZs) and more cameras to clamp down on traffic offences.

A review of the waste and cleaning model to “produce a new, efficient, and targeted approach” aims to cut the service by £330,000 the year after next.

Staff will likely lose their jobs, though Mr Sheehan did not confirm how many when questioned.

But he said that when he comes back to the committee in January, he will “unfortunately” be presenting cuts “that will have staffing implications”.

The current cut proposal suggests getting rid of a cleaning team – four staff members – and reducing the number of street sweepers in town centres “from 22 to one”.

The risks, outlined by the council, include fly tips remaining on streets for longer, redundancies, and increased complaints from residents.

It also states the cuts could have an “adverse impact on the perception of the borough in terms of cleanliness, attractiveness and management of the local environment”.

Mr Sheehan said “this area is ripe for change” and savings could be made by “bringing waste and cleansing together and looking at the crossovers between those areas”.

He said the council was looking at a “place-based” approach, which looks at community needs at a neighbourhood level, “as opposed to a service-based solution”.

Mr Sheehan also said Lewisham must “drive down the amount of waste we’re using”.

“The council can’t just keep expanding its services in relation to waste, we do need people to change their behaviours,” he said.

The council also aims to cut £250,000 from the environment budget by developing a new waste strategy.

Another cut, generally backed by the committee, involves shaving £300,000 off the council’s corporate transport budget – it currently pays for 250,000 miles of travel expenses and also covers staff claims for public transport.

Car clubs and bike share schemes are proposed as part of that drive.

Members suggested encouraging public transport – Mr Sheehan said this had been “omitted” by accident – and ensuring car clubs are monitored and used properly.

A proposal to merge council office space in Catford, including Laurence House, Civic Suite, Old Town Hall, Holbeach, Town Hall Chambers and Eros House, is also being considered in a bid to save money from mothballing or getting income from leasing space out.

Lawrence House is set to remain the council’s HQ.

The Civic Suite, where council meetings were held before the pandemic, could be closed – if so meetings “would need to continue online” and/or alternative premises would have to be found.

Larger meetings could “potentially take place in schools or other hireable spaces in the borough”.

At the end of the meeting, Cllr Eva Stamirowski said the committee needed to be “realistic” about the need for the cuts, warning they didn’t want end up “like Croydon”, which has gone bankrupt.

Pictured top: Lewisham civic centre


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