Cabinet to propose changes to the draft budget

Last updated: 27/01/2015 16:40:31

Walsall Council bosses will be recommending the changes of over £1million of savings after feedback from the public to the budget consultation.

The council has been consulting on a package of proposals to deliver £29 million savings next year.  Eleven proposals for reduction in services, including charging for garden waste, district centre car park charges and cuts in street cleansing, are not now going ahead or will be reduced as a result.

Leader of Walsall Council, Councillor Sean Coughlan, said: “We’ve listened to what Walsall people have had to say and this has helped us make informed decisions.

“We need to save some £86 million over the next four years.  I always said this would be very difficult and some of the decisions will be unpalatable.

“That’s why I wanted a proper consultation with as many residents and businesses as possible giving feedback. 

Many residents support our decisions and they recognise the need to reduce spending.  They have also given us some valuable ideas for how we could do things differently.

“We do recognise some of our proposals may not be popular.  That’s why we listened carefully to people.  For several proposals, where this would cause difficulties for local people we have now decided not to go ahead.”

Out of the 54 savings proposals which would have a direct impact on the public, 21 were generally supported by respondents, 15 not supported and for 17 the results were inconclusive.

Councillor Keith Chambers, lead cabinet member for the budget consultation, said: “This has been the council’s biggest budget consultation ever undertaken.  Over 7,000 responses have been received to the 54 draft policy proposals – thank you to everyone who took the time to have their say.

“Added to that, earlier in the process we listened to over 4,600 people in August and September to find out what was important to them; what services would they protect, reduce or cease.”

“Listening to the people of Walsall throughout this consultation has helped us shape our decisions.  Feedback from service users, businesses, children and young people, other stakeholders and staff has been used to fine tune our draft proposals and adjustments have been made.” 

“This means that the number of staff redundancies will reduce and we will mitigate these with voluntary redundancy requests where possible.”

Proposed changes include the reduction in grants to community associations – support will continue to be provided as community associations will have a key role in delivering services in the future. 

Proposals to charge for garden waste collection from 2016 has been withdrawn as over 70% of respondents said they wouldn’t pay for the service.

Charging for district centre car parking has already been withdrawn by the council’s Cabinet in December – businesses were concerned for the economic impact on district centres.

Removing the subsidies for the maintenance of grass sports facilities has also been withdrawn and reported at Cabinet in December.

Proposals to be amended include the reduction in parks, nature reserves and public open spaces.  This followed public concerns about the risk of more anti-social behaviour, lower quality of life for residents and more litter and dog fouling. The new saving has minimal customer impact.

The outdoor adventure service at Aldridge Airport Activities Centre and Sneyd Watersports Centre will continue to operate but in a different way - saving £48,500 instead of £97,000.  The feedback from staff and service users identified the potential for other ways to save money.

The proposed reduction in winter opening hours will no longer be implemented at the New Art Gallery.

The street cleansing service saving will be reduced.  Residents and businesses were concerned about the effects of dirty streets.  The new savings can be made without impact on the public.

The proposal to reduce road markings has also been dropped after concerns were raised over road safety.

The council’s “RecruitAbility” programme will continue to support disabled people into work at the council.

Fallings Heath respite care centre will stay open and the proposed savings of £260,000 will be funded through increased occupancy rates and staffing changes.

There is a change to the proposal to close 8 libraries over two years.  Councillor Coughlan explained, “Most people do not want the council to close libraries.  The closure date for Streetly, Pheasey, Beechdale, Walsall Wood and Walsall South libraries will therefore be deferred for three months to provide more time for local community groups to discuss their proposals for running book services after the libraries close. 

“Two opportunities have come forward during the consultation for Streetly Library and we think these could be very helpful to local people.  We are optimistic that options will be generated by community groups in other areas.”
 
Councillor Coughlan added: “All proposals that come into effect in year two will be subject to further consultation later this year for a final decision in February 2016.”

The recommendations to remove or amend proposals amounts to £ 1,574,679 over two years and is being funded through a combination of replacement savings, use of alternative funding, and minor one-off general reserves.

The full cabinet report for February 4 2015 can be accessed at www.walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay.

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