Monthly Archives: October 2011

Kingston amongst worst councils for cuts impacting disabled people

According to “The Disability Cuts Map” published by Demos, Kingston upon Thames ranks 135 out of 152 councils in England for severity of cuts to disability benefits and services. Based on gradings of all local authorities, Kingston’s cuts level is marked as a “Very High Cut” with a Coping Level of “Bad”. In London, Kingston is placed among the worst 7 out of 33 local boroughs. The Demos report summarises the budget cuts as follows:

1. -17.03 per cent budget change to disabled children and families’ care
and support
2. -2.61 per cent budget change to adult care and support
3. -14.37 per cent budget change to older people’s care and support


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Kingston hospital hit with more cuts

From Kingston Guardian

Kingston Hospital could be hit with more swinging cuts as the NHS faces another £6.5m reduction in spending across its services.

The savings outlined for 2012-13 are on top of this year’s £6m target and form part of a national Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) efficiency programme.

Draft plans show £3.3m of the potential identified savings will come from acute care at hospitals.

Another £650,000 will come from mental health, including the reprovision of rehabilitation units from Rose Lodge in New Malden and Fuschia ward in Tolworth Hospital.

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PFI funding plans for North Kingston school a financial milestone for years to come

Plans announced today by Kingston Council to fund the construction of the new North Kingston secondary school by seeking a loan under the Private Finance Iniative are an expensive folly for local council tax payers, according to the Christian Peoples Alliance party. Last Friday was the deadline for bids under the Coalition government’s Priority School Building Programme, which is intended for local authorities who meet criteria of having basic need for demographic reasons, or were promised money under the last government’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.

Kingston Anti Cuts Group says that residents are entitled to look at alternative ways of  funding the school. One KACG member, Paul Pickhaver, says PFI funding has many drawbacks:

“Under PFI, private sector companies are brought in to fund and build the new school. Local council taxpayers will avoid upfront costs but are locked into expensive long-term repayment deals. We need to see the exact terms of the proposed deal, but experience tells us that Kingston Council’s plans could be a financial millstone for decades to come.”

KACG is pointing to a recent highly critical report by the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee which found that the return on private finance – about 8.5% on a typical deal, compared to about 4% on long-term government bonds – is too high to represent good value. The report evaluated the costs of construction, maintenance and services under typical PFI deals and found no evidence of any savings over normal public procurement. It concluded that the value for money case for the PFI “is implausible”.

Paul Pickhaver added that the proposed deal could also damage other schools in the borough:

“PFI companies can and do charge huge mark-ups for basic maintenance. As schools are funded through ring fenced grants, the potential additional costs of an individual school will have to be met by the whole school sector rather than by Kingston Council. This could mean that other schools in our area have a reduction in their funding to meet the additional costs of this proposed PFI deal.”

Last year, the Department for Education’s budget for school buildings was slashed by 60 per cent in the comprehensive spending review. The Government also axed Labour’s £55bn programme to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in England, although a small number of construction projects will still go ahead.

Kingston rated as one of the most unaffordable for housing

Fears that families in Kingston are facing a coming housing crisis have been expressed, following new research published by housing and homelessness charity Shelter (13th October) that identifies Kingston as a problem borough. The paper called “Private Rent Watch” finds that average private rents in Kingston upon Thames are unaffordable for the majority of ordinary working families, with the borough placed among the worst 8 per cent nationally. Data gathered by Shelter characterises Kingston as “extremely unaffordable”,based on average rents costing more than half of median levels of full-time take-home pay.

According to Shelter, residents renting two bedroom homes in Kingston pay an average of £1,107 a month, placing Kingston 24th out of the top 30 most unaffordable boroughs in the country, based directly on what a home costs to rent as a proportion of local full-time take home pay. A social housing professional, Susan May, says the Shelter survey indicates that those priced out of home ownership are struggling to meet the costs of renting:

“The economic downturn and banking crisis has made buying harder, so rising demand for private renting has driven up rents to unaffordable levels. Even for those with work, the cost of living in Kingston is hitting hard. For those dependent on benefits, when the Coalition’s housing benefit cuts start biting in autumn next year, some families will begin to struggle and could be forced from their homes.”

As part of a range of benefit cuts, a benefit called Local Housing Allowance – the money claimants receive towards the cost of their housing – will be brought into line with the bottom third of private sector rents, rather than the bottom half as is the case now, from September 2012. The Kingston Anti-Cuts Group says this measure will force residents to uproot their families, or cut back on essentials such as food and heating.

Susan May added:

“Rather than cutting housing benefits to reduce ballooning benefit costs, the government must look at reducing rocketing rental costs. One step would be to move towards forcing unused buildings into use.”

Shelter is calling for government to take urgent action to stabilise a rental market that is out of control, and develop policies to bring rents more in line with average earnings. From 1997 to 2007, rents increased at one and a half times the rate of incomes. Recent research by Shelter showed that 38 per cent of families with children who are renting privately have cut down on buying food to pay their rent.

Full figures on Kingston upon Thames available at:
http://england.shelter.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/386828/Private_Rent_Watch_Report_1.pdf

Jobs at risk at BAE New Malden and on the high street

From Kingston Guardian

BAE has announced 19 posts in New Malden could be at risk as part of the shedding of 3,000 jobs across the country.

The defence giant said the cuts in the borough were “associated with reducing workload on information programmes and the need to remain competitive”.

The latest job losses add to ongoing public sector cuts, which saw Kingston Council make 63 staff redundant last year, and Kingston Hospital announce plans to cut 486 posts over the next five years.

Read more.