Have your say on £620m budget proposal

Last updated: 24/10/2013 15:59:36

Walsall Council

A major drive has been launched to encourage people to have their say after Walsall Council  set out their spending plans.

Key proposals were approved by the authority’s cabinet who also launched the biggest ever consultation exercise in the borough.

A part of the planned budget, £65 million would be spent on social care, £25 million on regeneration and transport, £14 million on leisure and culture with £61 million on children’s services.

Council bosses have confirmed that there will be no move away from weekly bin collections, libraries and children centres will not be closed and the authority will continue to keep the streets clean as it has been doing.

Residents will be urged to have their say on the plan through a range of ways until a final decision is made in February.

The council will have to reduce its budget by £18.9 million next year and save £104 million over the next five years as Government funding will fall. 

Councillor Mike Bird, Leader of Walsall Council said: "As I’ve stated, this is the biggest consultation we've undertaken and it's very important for people to have their say.

“To repeat, we've pledged to minimise the effect on frontline services which includes things like keeping weekly bin collections, keeping our libraries and our 18 children centres open and we want to maintain our street cleansing services.

"We’ve said before we’re working hard to make Walsall a better place for everyone. It is clear there will be less money, fewer people and so we’ll be able to do less. We’ll make the best of what we’ve got.

Over the past four years there have been 450 redundancies but no final figure will emerge until February.

Councillor Ian Shires, cabinet member for communities and partnerships in the Walsall Council Coalition urged people to have their say on the proposals.

He said: "We want this consultation to be open and we’ll carry on listening carefully to what people are saying.

"We listened last year and made some key changes to the budget and this year we are giving people an even bigger say.”

Whilst the proposals are based on no rise in council tax for the next year, the council is interested in the views of Walsall residents about whether they would rather see a small increase in order to protect more services.

Three options will be put forward for public opinion:

1. No increase in council tax, which means a reduction in services along the lines of the proposals put forward.

2. A 2% increase in council tax, which would generate an extra income of £1.7 million from a rise of five pence per day on average.  This would enable some services to be protected.

3. A 4% increase, raising £3.4 million from a rise of ten pence per day on average.  This would enable further services to be protected but it should be noted that a four per cent increase would trigger a public referendum costing around £250,000, the same as a local election (which would reduce the amount of services that could be protected).

For either option 2 or option 3, the council would take into account the detailed feedback received during the consultation to help it to decide which services to protect from the extra income generated.

The spending plan comes after £32 million has been taken out of Walsall council budgets over the past two years.

Included in the list of proposals are plans to close Walsall Museum saving £70,000, saving £500,000 through carrying out efficiencies in children’s services with a further £450,000 of efficiencies possible through a review of youth support and careers information. 

Grants to allotment associations could be cut by 50 per cent saving £20,150. A further £480,000 is set to be saved by re-negotiating a contract with housing 21 for respite care with £500,000 to be taken from the budget to look after residential care.

Almost £300,000 could no longer be spent on the family support service with £165,000 to be raised by a rise in fees and charges for bereavement services.

Cllr Christopher Towe, portfolio holder for finance in the Walsall Council coalition, said that tough decisions lie ahead but the authority was still looking to invest around £620 million in providing more than 700 services for residents and businesses.

He said: "As we’ve said all along, we want to help business create jobs and opportunities. We also want to help Walsall people lead healthier lives and older people live independently. We want to create safe and sustainable places where everyone can live.

"We also want to help children of all backgrounds get the best start in life they possibly can."

To review the full list of savings options visit https://www.walsall.gov.uk/List_of_options_Policy_and_Non_Policy_Cabinet_23.10.13.xls

To review the full budget proposals please visit http://cmis/CMISWebPublic/Binary.ashx?Document=13555

Comments can be emailed to budgetconsultation@walsall.gov.uk or people can call 01922 653644, tweet @walsallcouncil or post a message to the Our Walsall Facebook page.

Walsall Council will also be on the streets meeting people to canvas their opinions with a full list of venues for face-to-face discussions. Details can be found at walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay