Walsall Council proposes £29m of savings next year

Last updated: 21/10/2014 14:27:59

Key budget proposals over four years will be considered by the authority’s cabinet next week which seek to save £86 million by March 2019.


The council will have to reduce its budget by £29.2 million next year and save a further £57 million over the following three years as part of their four year budget plan.


Councillor Sean Coughlan, Leader of Walsall Council, said: "As I’ve said before, next year will see the deepest of cuts over our four year budget plan. 


“This is the first time Walsall Council has produced a forward-looking plan.  As the new administration, we have had only three months to do so.


“Faced with £47 million funding reductions from central government and the limitation on council tax increases, our hands are tied and it hasn’t been easy.  But our priority has been to protect the most vulnerable people and to do what we can to continue making Walsall a good place to live


“There have been council tax freezes in previous years and overall a limited amount of tax increases over the past ten years.  Now we’ll be reviewing the council tax reduction scheme and the council tax discounts we offer residents in the hope to save £3 million.


Councillor Keith Chambers, portfolio holder for personnel and business support, said: "Over 4,600 people took part in phase one of our budget consultation that included views from residents, schools, businesses and staff and we thank them sincerely for taking part.


“The consultation report revealed a greater understanding from the public of what we face and a greater acceptance of the radical choices that will have to be made.  This has really helped us focus on what matters to local people.


“We will start the next phase of the budget consultation in November when people can have the chance to comment on the draft budget proposals which we are launching today.”


487 potential redundancies are being proposed between April 2015 and March 2017, of which 112 are vacant posts. 


Around 60 budget proposals feature in years one and two of the plan.  Phase two of the budget consultation will start in November.  Affected service users will be written to advising them of the changes and the alternatives on offer and they will have the chance to have their say on these proposals before Full Council approves the final budget in February 2015.


The draft proposals include the closure of 12 children’s centres over two years saving £1.8m and a reduction in youth services, but not affecting vulnerable children, saving just over £2m, closing 8 libraries over 2 years saving over half a million pounds, the closure of Walsall Museum saving £70,000, reducing bin collections to fortnightly from April 2016, reducing garden waste collection to six months (instead of eight months) between April and September and introducing charging for garden waste collection from April 2016 as well as a reduction in the street cleansing service - a saving of near £1.5 million.


Savings in grass cutting, parks and grounds maintenance could save nearly £900,000.


Some changes are based on redesigning how services can be provided with fewer staff and buildings.  For adult social care this means a redesign of care and support through the assessment and reviews of older people and those with physical disabilities using promotion of independence methods.


Councillor Coughlan added: "Over the next two years, close to £5 million will be saved through the reduction of back office support staff which will help protect front line services.


"We are also reviewing our management structure which will result in fewer senior managers in the council – a view endorsed by comments from residents and staff.”


“About £16 million of the £29.2 million we are proposing to save next year will have little or no affect on the service users,“ the Leader explained.


“We will still be a big organisation with a budget of around £600 million next year.


“We are proposing to invest £25 million next year in capital projects to improve services and make Walsall a better place.  This includes two new leisure centres, a new fit-for-purpose Walsall market which will really enhance the town centre, improvements to parks, roads and libraries and housing adaptations to help people continue to live in their own homes for longer.


“We will still have libraries, children’s centres, leisure centres, bin collections, and we will still be looking after older people helping them to live more independently and we will still protect vulnerable children. 


“All these will be done differently and better with less staff and fewer buildings.”


A part of the planned budget for next year, £69 million would be spent on social care, £39 million on regeneration, environment and transport, £19 million on community, leisure and culture with £61 million on children’s services.


To review the full budget proposals please visit http://cmis/CMISWebPublic/Meeting.aspx?meetingID=2260


Consultation on the budget proposals will commence on 30 October and details about how to have your say will be published on the council’s website www.walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay.


In addition information will also be made available in the First Stop Shop, all libraries and other community buildings.