Sunday, December 30, 2012

Local Green Tracey Hague comments on the cuts

THE council wants to save £36 million over the next two years but has only labelled £3.7m of the proposals as cuts.

The Department of Adult Services, Health and Housing (DASHH) will be the hardest hit, with £11.149m of cuts and efficiencies.
Children’s  and family services are also affected, with £10.933m of savings and cutbacks.
Services which the council will cut between 2013 and 2015 include:
- Review and redesign of early intervention, family support and integrated youth services - £1.7m
- Axing two school improvement officers - £184,000
- Cut in care support budgets for older people, people with learning and physical disability and those with mental health problems - £150,000
- End Journeys youth service - £140,000
- Smaller contribution to Upper Norwood Joint Library - £114,000
- Reduction of council’s role in “facilitation of culture”, including reducing archive service to statutory minimum - £105,000
- Further reduction in payments to the voluntary sector - £80,000
- Reduction of funding for supplementary education, mentoring and community languages - £78,000
- Transfer or reduce 42 per cent of school crossing patrols - £42,000
- Reduction of tree planting and maintenance - £35,000
- Reduction of Safer Croydon Partnership Budget - £23,000
- Non maintenance (closure) of South Norwood Pitch & Putt - £20,000
- Removal of “under-used” football pitches - £12,000
- Less commissioning of domestic violence services - £20,000
- Reduction in park related costs (trees/sports equipment) - £10,000
- Reduced commissioning for youth counselling - £10,000

A little over half way into the current administration in Taberner House and it seems the Tories have lost the plot once again and sadly once again it’s the North of the borough and the environment which are losing out.
In the New Year residents face fines if they do not recycle (use their green and blue boxes), yet the locations for Christmas tree recycling number only 17 and many of the northern-most wards are not amongst them. Even my own ward in Addiscombe, where recycling rates are high, has lost its tree recycling point this year for some unknown reason. Looking at Your Croydon (available in libraries), there are even fewer recycling locations for Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) which number (wait for it) just 5 in a borough of 24 wards.
Does the council seriously expect people to drive their tree to a neighbouring ward? For those (like me) who do not have a car or who can no longer drive (like my mother), are we seriously expected to drag a tree to a neighbouring ward? Although I belong to Zipcar (a car club which rents out cars by the hour or day), a real tree would surely drop most of its needles in the car and necessitate a lengthy (& costly) cleaning process. So anyone in the wards of Bensham Manor, Selhurst, Thornton Heath, West Thornton, Woodside, in some central wards like Fairfield and Fieldway, and even some more affluent wards in the South (where recycling rates are usually higher) Croham and Sanderstead will have to make alternative arrangements. Some dedicated people may make the effort and drive their recycling to a civic amenity site, but it is questionable whether the emissions and costs would see a net benefit. You could always try and carry a tree on a bus (but I wouldn’t hold your breath for a driver allowing you aboard!); at least when you get to the amenity site’s gates the staff have to take the tree off you and take it to the green waste container. You could also store your tree at home but you’d have to wait until April for kerbside green waste collections to resume, or spend hours cutting the tree into small enough pieces to fit in your food waste bin! Of course the most likely action is that trees will be dumped, either in bin liners in wheelie bins (destined for landfill) or worse fly-tipped somewhere. At least if it’s fly-tipped on council land the council will have to pick up the tab, so the council will end up paying for their short-sightedness or inconsideration for us residents who suffer their ill-conceived decisions. The reality is that the clean-up costs will merely be passed on to us, and services will be cut even further to ‘balance the books’.
If anyone is of a mind to protest peacefully, the option of civil disobedience is open to you. Maybe the New Year will see a sudden forest of spruces appear on the lawns of the Taberner House. Gandhi would be proud and it might cheer the place up in these grim times. Conveniently they would then be in one place for collection for recycling.
People expect the Green Party to be concerned about the environment but we also care about people. The people in the North of Croydon have been short-changed for years in terms of council service delivery. The 2 party duopoly in the council chamber has gone on for too long. The Green Party would ensure that council services are truly universal and that no-one misses out, that efficiencies aren’t confused with cuts and that common sense prevails over short-termism. Unmaintained park equipment will need replacing sooner and we’ve seen plenty of that in recent years; ask anyone who has used the play area in South Norwood Country Park in the last 5 years. Cuts to tree services are also unwise as our green spaces are something we hold dear; they are the lungs of our borough and never have they been me needed when we’ve got several areas where we fail the air quality regulations (such as around Beddington where the incinerator is planned). Also why does it cost £12,000 to remove some football pitches? The turf will still need mowing, but why can’t they be left for people to use? With an obesity epidemic and worries about the disaffected youth turning to crime, do we really want to discourage people from using parks? It’s about time the residents of Croydon had a council which thinks beyond the next election and of what is the right thing to do for decades hence. The Iroquai in Northern America make decisions based on the consequences 7 generations hence; this is something we should all aspire to. We only have one planet, one pair of lungs each, but plenty of residents who work hard (paid or unpaid) and deserve better…oh and who have a vote.
Of course there is always the possibility that the Tory administration has resigned itself to lose in 2014. With ever more cuts facing us for years to come (they’ve only just started!), they’ve gone beyond trimming fat and are now severing limbs. We’re now at the stage of cutting back to the bare statutory minimum, so where do we/they go from here? At least the Tories can say “we didn’t increase council tax”. Personally I’d rather pay a bit extra to get the services we need, want and deserve. The Tories wouldn’t have given up on re-election already, would they? I know what I’ll be asking Santa for this Yuletide and it’s not red or blue, but green.

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