This report was written by Research for Action to document residents’ lived experience of austerity in the London borough of Newham. It is part of evidence collection for a “citizen debt audit” that seeks to evaluate the social sustainability of Newham council’s borrowing from banks in the form of LOBO loans.
The aim of a citizen debt audit is to improve the accountability of local government towards its residents in managing funds in the public interest. We hope to start a conversation about the legitimacy of the continued, ring-fenced expenditure towards the financial sector in the context of harsh austerity in one of the most deprived areas in England, and to contribute to efforts to make the council more democratic, accountable and inclusive.
Since 2010, Newham has cut spending on services by nearly a third. Our research, consisting of 51 in-depth interviews with residents, shows how these cuts are felt in the community. Although a majority of residents are satisfied with the services they currently use, there are significant concerns regarding the cuts. Only a third of our respondents felt that their needs were met by the council, and most felt that the council’s spending priorities did not reflect their needs. Many felt severely let down and did not even find it meaningful to contact the council for the support they needed.
The findings of this report will feature in our final body of work, together with interviews from focus groups, charities, campaign groups and individuals impacted by or working with the effects of cuts as well as financial and legal experts’ views about the council’s LOBO borrowing.
If you live or work in Newham and would like to participate in our project, please get in touch.