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Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal urged to be ‘bold and visionary’ when making £70million savings

13:30 11 August 2014

Jas Athwal, leader of the council

Jas Athwal, leader of the council

Archant

The council leader needs to be “bold and visionary” in his approach to finding savings of £70million, according to the opposition leader.

Paul Canal, leader of the ConservativesPaul Canal, leader of the Conservatives

Conservative Cllr Paul Canal said he did not “underestimate the scale of the challenge” facing Labour leader Cllr Jas Athwal, but hoped he would seize the opportunity to reimagine the way services are delivered.

In his leader’s blog, Cllr Athwal said the cuts, to be delivered by 2018, could significantly affect frontline services.

Cllr Canal said: “I think there is an opportunity here for Jas to be bold and visionary and I hope he takes it. In the past, we have taken an existing budget and squeezed it and squeezed it and squeezed it.

“We have to work from the ground up.”

Speaking to the Recorder, Cllr Athwal said the council was looking at reshaping the way services were delivered and tough decisions lay ahead.

“It’s time to look at redesign” he said. “We need to have the appropriate levels of officers and offset the cost of extra officers against the savings we are having to make.

“We have only just taken over the council, but we are looking at everything. We want to protect frontline services and make them much more efficient and we need to look at ways of working which perhaps the council hasn’t looked at before. But there will be harsh decisions to make.”

Cllr Athwal also claimed the challenge has been exacerbated by the previous administration taking £13million out of reserves.

He said: “I won’t allow this council to make decisions like that. It is so short-sighted. It is unbelievable it was allowed to happen.”

But Cllr Canal, who believes the council should introduce policies such as the outsourcing of services, hit back: “I think it is completely unfair.

“We used the money judiciously and we still have some of the highest reserves in London.

“If you go back to the last Labour administration we were left with no reserves. I won’t take any lessons from Labour on that at all.”

He added that consultation with councillors has so far been “very poor” citing the abolition of area committees and regional planning committees.

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