Details of £6m in future council cuts revealed

The council revealed details of cuts, including to children’s mental health services, only after the budget was approved

By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Details of more than £6million in Waltham Forest Council budget cuts, including to children’s mental health services, can now be revealed.

Last week, the majority of councillors voted to approve the budget for the 2023/24 financial year, which included £6.7m in “efficiency savings”.

Waltham Forest Council refused to provide more details about these cuts to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) ahead of the vote, arguing they were “normal budget management” that would not impact council services.

However, after the full council meeting, the council shared a breakdown of these savings, which include saving more than £1m through “reviews” of social care and mental health costs, alongside a range of smaller proposals.

The breakdown notes that “substantial NHS investment” in children’s mental health services and pressures on Waltham Forest’s own budget mean it is no longer “appropriate” for the council to contribute £315,000 per year.

When contacted for comment, council leader Grace Williams said: “If savings that have an impact on front-line services are proposed, they are carefully considered with the involvement of service users before being scrutinised in public by elected members.”

Some Labour members told the LDRS they were unaware of any planned savings, despite attending a private briefing on the budget before its approval last week.

Details of savings were not shown to the budget and performance scrutiny committee either, despite its role in publicly examining council policy decisions.

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

Conservative group leader Emma Best said it was “beyond ridiculous” that her party had been asked to vote in favour of the budget “without any details” of £6m in savings.

She added: “It is disappointing but not surprising that Labour backbenchers voted last week’s budget through without knowing what they were actually voting for.

“To provide those figures only after the budget has passed stinks and shows the Labour administration will do anything possible to avoid scrutiny.

“Now we discover concerning changes to children’s mental health service delivery and adult social care. All items we should have been discussed within the budget meeting.”

Responding to Cllr Best’s comments, Cllr Williams said her party makes “no apologies” for being “careful custodians” of public money.

She added: “This enables us to support more of our residents during their hour of need.”

Other savings that will be made by April next year include saving £480,000 by removing “duplication” of mental health services, for both children and adults, which the council believes the NHS should fund.

It is also hoping to spend £500,000 less on adult social care equipment, such as home adaptations for elderly people returning home after hospitalisation.

The council also plans to “save” money by ramping up some of its sources of income. It plans to make an extra £90,000 from fines, an extra £277,000 from parking permits and £60,000 more through commercial rents.

The highways team will also see a £100,000 “reduction in expenditure”, while £360,000 will be generated by scrapping parking scratchcards and increasing parking permit costs.

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

In celebration of Indie News Week, Public Interest News Foundation's Indie News Fund will match fund all donations, including new annual supporter subscriptions for the month of June.

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or annually 

More Information about donations