‘It’s seriously scary’ – Redbridge councillors warn of more austerity after 2014 election

“Storm clouds of austerity” are looming, as uncertainty remains over just how much more of its spending Redbridge will have to slash to stay afloat after next year’s election.

That was the assessment of Labour’s group leader Cllr Jas Athwal, who urged the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition to “think beyond” the 2014 election.

Crystal balls were gazed at by councillors on all political sides at Thursday’s full council meeting, as the 2013/14 budget was approved.

Cllr Athwal said: “What I’m asking the leadership is to think and look beyond 2014. In 2015 the bottom falls out and we’re in big trouble.”

The 2013/14 budget signals the final part of a three-year budget strategy designed to combat the economic crash.

But council leader Cllr Keith Prince told colleagues in Redbridge Town Hall, High Road, Ilford, that he was still waiting for the government to reveal its settlement to the council beyond the 2014/15 financial year, adding: “That makes our planning extremely difficult.”

He said he may come in for criticism for having a “large” amount of money in reserves, but stressed: “We need to make allowances for what we don’t know.”

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His deputy Cllr Ian Bond, who is also Liberal Democrat group leader, called the 2013/14 budget a “good news budget”.

He added: “I’m proud we can say that because it’s rare to be able to.

“It’s probably fair to say it will be rarer in years to come.”

The next local government settlement Redbridge Council is waiting for will lay out how much its budget – including the size of grants – will be reduced by.

During the budget debate Labour Cllr Bob Littlewood said: “You look forward two to three years and we’re likely to make big cuts. It’s seriously scary.”