Planned Council Cuts Under Fire

Proposals will hit services to children in Merton

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Proposed cuts to services for young people in Merton have been attacked by Conservative and Lib-Dem councillors.

The proposals being made as part of overall plans to save £44m include:

-        Closure of Morden's Wyvern Youth Club
-        A £500,000 proposed reduction to early intervention and prevention for vulnerable youngsters and those at high risk of offending
-        Cuts to activities for young people during the holidays
-        Cuts to the School Admissions Department
-        Cuts to support for young people leaving care
-        Reducing funding for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.

The council has now completed the formal conclusion of its scrutiny process of the budget proposals, and the next stage is for the full council to discuss the plans on March 7.

But Councillor Suzanne Grocott, the Conservatives' Finance Spokesman, said the planned cuts were "politically motivated" and "mean".

"They persist in damaging or removing services that residents value even though they have already closed the budget gap for next year.

"Saving a few thousand pounds by withdrawing funding from the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and local theatres or by not mowing bowling greens is frankly "mean".

"We now know that Labour under spent by £11 million this year, which is money that could have been spent to save frontline services. A surplus of this scale shows that Labour is incompetent when it comes to managing council budgets," she said.

And the leader of Merton's Liberal Democrats, Councillor Iain Dysart (left), has also spoken out against the proposed cutbacks - claiming many of the suggested savings are "a false economy".

Councillor Dysart, in his role as a member of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Panel, is part of the group of councillors who have been examining this year's budget proposals in relation to youth services.  

He said: "While we Liberal Democrats clearly accept the need to make savings in Council services during these difficult economic times, it is vital that these are made sensitively and with due regard to future generations.

"Many short term savings may well turn out to be false economies if they lead to longer term financial and social costs. Providing our children and young people with the help and support they need to gain skills and confidence for the rest of their lives avoids the costs of social and economic breakdown in the future." 

He specifically highlighted the potential risks of reducing the number of schools admissions officers at a time of increasing demand for primary and secondary school places; the reduction in funding for the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, which aims to provide young people with skills and confidence for the future; and the reductions in funding for social workers supporting adoptive families, particular after recent figures revealed Merton to be languishing in national adoption tables.

February 15, 2012