Walsall Council embarks on consultation over £16.6m cuts

Council bosses in Walsall have launched a major consultation on draft budget proposals that earmark £16.6 million savings in 2011/12.

Cabinet members last night (17 Nov) set out their plans to consult widely with staff, elected members, and the wider community on spending proposals totalling almost £240 million.

Like all local councils, Walsall is facing budget reductions of 7.1% per annum over the next four years, under the Government’s plan to reduce the national deficit of £109 billion by 2014/15.

Walsall’s draft budget proposals identify almost £10 million of operational savings or cost efficiencies that can be implemented by officers plus a further £6.7 million executive savings that will require a cabinet decision.

At this stage it is estimated 427 posts may be affected although 187 of these are vacant. The estimated breakdown per directorate is as follows:-

Resources:- 71 posts (18 of these are vacant)
Neighbourhoods:- 113 posts (31 of these are vacant)
Regeneration:- 34 posts (11 of these are vacant)
Childrens:- 60 posts (33 of these are vacant)
Social care and inclusion:- 149 posts (94 of these are vacant)

The council has already consulted widely on spending priorities, with community and voluntary groups, roadshows, discussions with service users, business community, schools and staff through trades union representatives.

Last month local people were also given the opportunity to say where they would spend money and make savings by using a special online budget simulator.

Feedback has been fed into the draft proposals that will now be subject to further consultation. There will be a new round of revenue budget consultations with scrutiny and performance panels later this month and into December.

There will also be a special corporate scrutiny panel on 9 and 10 December and a second round of scrutiny and performance meetings in late January.

Cabinet member for finance and personnel Councillor Chris Towe said: “These are very challenging times for everyone.

“We have come up with initial proposals that would achieve the level of savings required and more importantly will avoid raising council tax rates at a time when everyone is struggling to keep expenses down.

“There are still uncertainties about the exact level of funding we will receive, but that should become clearer in the coming weeks and months, as we go through what is a very extensive consultation period.

“We will be consulting with our employees both individually and through trades unions about our proposals in the hope that we can work together to shape our final budget plans that will be agreed by full council on 24 February.”

Draft budgets for each cabinet portfolio are:

Children’s Services – £64.247m
Communities and Partnerships – £10.981m
Business Support – £1.7m
Finance and Personnel – £14.241m
Leisure, Culture and Environment – £39.375m
Regeneration – £10.400m
Social Care and Health – £72.416m
Transport – £15.252m
Central budgets – £14.693m

*Please note: this is a press release from Walsall Council and has been unedited

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