“It’s a sad reality that every single council in the country is currently having to do more with less money, and this is a situation which obviously can’t continue,” said Councillor Steve Donnelly, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for inclusive economy, ahead of the cabinet meeting on Wednesday 7 February where the council’s budget for 2024-25 will be discussed.
“It’s a bleak forecast. But the spiralling costs of providing social care to an ever-increasing number of people, a national shortage of genuinely affordable and decent housing, and a consequential steep rise in homelessness, have all added to the biggest financial pressures councils have ever experienced.
“Additionally, taking into consideration the huge rise in inflation, increased costs of borrowing and the cost of living crisis, Ealing Council has done extraordinarily well in balancing its budget in recent years and delivering vital, high quality public services.
“It is proof of the efforts we have been making to manage our finances effectively under extreme pressure that we are in a position this year to be able to propose significant investment for the priority services which are needed most by Ealing residents.”
At the meeting on Wednesday, cabinet councillors will decide on allocating key funding:
- £11.6m is proposed to be allocated to adults’ social care
- £20.6m is proposed to be allocated to children’s social care
- £5m is proposed to be allocated to housing and environment with £2.4 from this figure to be invested in homelessness
A time of opportunity – a time of change
Councillor Peter Mason, the leader of Ealing Council, said that despite the stark situation, the council’s ambitions for the borough and for Ealing residents can still be achieved.
He said: “Our record of managing our finances with care and prudence means that Ealing is a well-run council, and we’re not yet in the same dire financial situation as many other councils are. Despite this, and with a tough time ahead of us, we can’t carry on as we have been.
“We want to give our communities what they need to connect with friends and neighbours so that people can help and support each other. Time and again, whether through the pandemic or during the cost of living crisis, communities have pulled together.
“We know Ealing residents want to live in towns and neighbourhoods full of pride, identity, and care and we also know that they often know better than the council how to make that a reality.
“We want to facilitate, amplify, and empower communities to do even more, and that’s what this budget will help achieve.
“More decisions will be made by communities, creating stronger resilient towns and neighbourhoods, which in turn will lead to locally led economic growth.”
Supporting people who need help most
Despite Ealing Council being on the receiving end of over a decade of funding reductions from central government, Councillor Donnelly has given his assurances that Ealing will continue to support people who need help most. He said:
“We know that residents want to do more to prevent each other from slipping into crisis, but we will always set aside funding in our budget to support people with acute and complex needs.”
Councillor Mason added: “And despite the pressures, we will continue to deliver for Ealing and do the things that residents say are important to them: things like keeping the streets clean, and supporting schools to continue delivering excellent education for our young people – especially for children with special education and disabilities. We will also continue to attract investment in the borough, leading to more good jobs and more genuinely affordable housing.
“We will also be progressing our plans for a new regional park, which is hoped will be as transformative for west London as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been for east London, as well as a new sports facility at Gurnell and a new lido.”