Fears councillors won’t listen to residents’ concerns over budgets cuts

John Coombes

John Coombes - Credit: Archant

The Redbridge Conversation has been called into question by community group leaders.

John Coombes, chairman of Redbridge Pensioners Forum, and Richard Leighton, chairman of Friends of Goodmayes Park, have expressed concerns that the council will not listen to the results of the consultation.

Mr Coombes said: “I know people are very cynical as to how much notice the council will take as a result of the Redbridge Conversation as when we have raised issues with councillors in the past, nine times out ten they have been ignored.”

Mr Leighton added: “Many residents I have spoken with are not confident their views will be taken into consideration. Many have lost faith in the system.”

The Redbridge Conversation was launched following the announcement that the council needs to cut £70million from its budget by 2017/18.

By taking part in the online budget tool You Choose, residents can have a say on how the budget should be shaped by voting on which services should be prioritised.

Mr Coombes, who is concerned about how potential cuts could affect the borough’s pensioners, said: “The Redbridge Pensioners Forum needs to protect their corner as already we don’t think enough is being done for them and if cuts do happen to social services and social care, this will cause a problem.”

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Mr Leighton expressed concern that green spaces could also be in the firing line of budget cuts: “Green space is vital for social cohesion and health. Already, it’s more under pressure than ever before.”

Redbridge Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal was quick to give his reassurances regarding the consultation.

He said: “People have been leaving comments and we will take every single one of them into account. The situation is very difficult and we do need to make sure that we do take people’s concerns on board.

“We have tried to push Redbridge Conversation within our current means and the next step will have to be outreach work but that involves more resources and it’s a chicken and egg situation.”

He added: “I want to encourage as many people to carry out the survey because it’s so important.”