Desperate days loom as full extent of Wolverhampton cuts revealed

Cuts to old people’s care homes, leisure centres, libraries and even the prospect of the bins not being emptied – the deep and desperate scale of council funding in Wolverhampton was today revealed in more detail.

Wolverhampton City Council chamber – the true scale of the desperate state of funding at the authority has been laid bare
Wolverhampton City Council chamber

Politicians are now in a bitter war of words over who is to blame for a situation that has left the city council a year away from bankruptcy unless it massively reduces what it is spending.

Wolverhampton City Council’s controlling Labour group says the authority will be ‘insolvent’ in 2015 unless it comes up with £123 million worth of cuts over five years.

Without major cuts over the next 12 months, it will be down to its last £620,000 by the end of the next financial year and bankrupt shortly after.

Up to 1,400 jobs will go but even that will put an enormous burden on budgets.

Redundancy is expected to cost more than £18 million over two years.

As councillors now look for more services to cut back than the 165 savings they have already drawn up it has been revealed that:

  • Care homes, home help and support for children in care will all have to cost less.
  • Libraries in some parts of Wolverhampton will open just 15 hours a week.
  • Central Baths will shut unless a way can be found for it to operate on its own without council funding.
  • Labour blames the Coalition Government completely for the mess, saying it has lost 52 per cent of its grants.
  • Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors say Labour was not managing the council’s finances well enough and must accept the blame.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, who is in charge of finance, said: “We have to bring forward £4 million worth of cuts, find another £5 million worth of savings proposals by the end of January then another £10m worth by the end of May.

“We are going to have to have a real hard look at the budget for adults and children’s services.

“This means looking at everything from domiciliary care for the elderly to support for people with learning disabilities, residential facilities for children, fostering and looked after children.”

The city council will be down to its last few thousands in just a year
The city council will be down to its last few thousands in just a year

He has suggested that the scale of the cuts in funding is so great that the council faces the very real possibility of not having enough money to empty the bins or to care for the elderly.

If the council cannot deliver a balanced budget, the government will come in and close services.

Meanwhile work is continuing to try to find a way for Central Baths to carry on without a £316,000 a year subsidy.

The ‘disproportionate’ cuts to Wolverhampton City Council’s budget were today criticised by Labour MPs who rallied round to defend it.

Take responsibility – Paul Uppal
Take responsibility – Paul Uppal

But the city’s Conservative MP Paul Uppal said the council had to take responsibility for its own handling of its money. The Labour controlled council says its funding has been cut by £147 million, or 52 per cent, since the Coalition Government came to power.

Emma Reynolds, Labour MP for Wolverhampton North East, today demanded an apology from the Prime Minister for remarks he made on a visit to the city last October.

He said at the time the city was receiving a ‘smaller cut than the average’.

But the controlling Labour party claims government funding cuts will have stripped it of 52 per cent of the budget it had available in 2010, before David Cameron came to power.

Emma Reynolds demanded an apology
Emma Reynolds demanded an apology

Miss Reynolds said: “For the past three years, this government has consistently cut the council’s grant, by some of the largest margins in the country. Nationwide, the government has cut its local government grant between 2010 and 2015 by 37 per cent, but in Wolverhampton the cut will be over 50 per cent.

“This means the council is now in a position where it will have to make large scale cuts that will be damaging to the services it provides to people in Wolverhampton.”

“When the Prime Minister came to Wolverhampton in October, he claimed, referring to the council’s spending cuts, that ‘it’s a smaller cut than the average’. It is obvious that this claim was highly misleading. Wealthier authorities like Oxfordshire County Council, have had to make much smaller cuts than Wolverhampton.

“David Cameron should apologise for his misleading claims. He will have to explain to people in Wolverhampton why he has made them pay the price for his failures to solve the cost of living crisis and deliver an economy that helps hard working Wulfrunians. While he cuts taxes for millionaires, the only cuts he has given to people in Wolverhampton are to essential public services.”

And Pat McFadden, MP for Wolverhampton South East, said: “This is a direct result of the Government’s decision to cut funding to the city council.

“Most of the council’s funding comes from government grant and that proportion is being cut in half. This is changing the shape of what the city council can do for the people of Wolverhampton and will have an impact for many years to come.”

Paul Uppal, Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West said: “The council has a debt of half a billion pounds which is costing £5,000 per household per year to service. It has to be able to live within its means and I feel that there has not been the necessary financial rigour over what the money is spent on.”

He questioned plans for the council to spend around £15 million on a revamp of its Civic Centre headquarters.

The council may struggle to empty bins if further cuts of £25 million are made at the already cash-strapped authority
The council may struggle to empty bins if further cuts of £25 million are made at the already cash-strapped authority

The council has said the move will save it hundreds of thousands of pounds a year because it will be able to cut the number of buildings it operates in from 13 to two.

Liberal Democrat councillor and former Mayor of Wolverhampton Councillor Malcolm Gwinnett said the Labour party had squandered millions of pounds of reserves built up when his party and the Tories ran the council in a coalition.

The coalition group lost control in 2010 after two and a half years in power. Back then the council’s reserves, which could be used in the case of unexpected needs, were £44m.

They are now £22m and will be down to £620,000 without major cuts.

He said: “I have been saying for a long time that we need to go back to basics.

“We need to run the council as a business, looking at the services that people need the most.

“That means focussing on the core issues like emptying the bins, fixing the streets, making the sure the lights are working, looking after the elderly and so on.” Councillor Gwinnett said:

“It’s painfully obvious that Labour did not get to grips with this early enough. They spent the reserves. They were left with £44 million when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats lost control of the council to Labour in 2010.

“Now that’s going to be down to £620,000 in a year without massive cuts.” The leader of Wolverhampton City Council, Councillor Roger Lawrence, said the authority had been dealing with both cuts and demand for services.

He said: “The increase in looked after children is around 60 per cent.

“That has been exacerbated by welfare reforms.

“And at the same time our income from grants has been effectively halved.” The council is planning to increase council tax by two per cent in April. It is the maximum the authority is allowed to raise the rates by following new rules brought in by the Government last year.

Any council tax rises above two per cent have to be put to the public vote in a referendum.

Comments for: "Desperate days loom as full extent of Wolverhampton cuts revealed"

I too

Yes Mr Uppal, you and your fellow Tories should take responsibility for your government's actions.

The nation knows what is going on but you still try to blame it on local politicians constrained by Tory policies..

Take a look at the food banks, the level of youth unemployment and dire poverty within our boundaries, and care for people!

The cuts will impact the most vulnerable people in Wolverhampton, cuts that will come back to haunt everyone. The ripple effect will impinge on the NHS because the elderly, young and disabled of all persuasions will need more support or become more ill.

We already know the NHS is not coping and is going to be swamped but there is no extra money for the NHS, is there Mr Uppal. Your leader has stated that it is protected and grows with inflation. So the amount is staionary, not growing for the anticpated extra need.

Come on Mr Uppal, please fight for Wolverhampton and realise what life is really like outside of your own lifestyle.

Pebble

Oh dear. I fear you've been led down the garden path.

The council deliberately delayed cuts, because they wanted to cause you pain as close to the upcoming election as possible. Had the council done as it was supposed to and acted in our interests, then it would have cut everything non essential when they were told to. But then we'd have been in an improving situation now. And Labour simply couldn't have that. No way would they want things to improve leading up to the election. So they have done their best to run the place down, and then pointed the finger at the coalition (Not tory remember. It's a coalition with the Lib Dems reigning in progress).

I think people need to realise we're not a rich country. 16 years of Labour saw to that. Now we're poor, and that means we can't do everything we'd like to or all the things we have been receiving on credit.

Step out of your Labour bubble. They are not in it for your well being.

Danimal

Years of labour Spend Spend Spend caused this. Others have to clean up Labour mess as always.

Which ironically makes them unpopular with people who voted the cause in in the first place.

A Lone Voice

The Government is spending £100 billion more than it receives in revenue this current year.....a mind boggling sum that I doubt most people can even comprehend !

For all the talk about austerity, the national debt will increase over the term of this government by more than the amount committed by the previous government over 11 years......and look where that got us!

After social security spending, the greatest demand on public finances are interest payments to service the massive debt racked up by all governments over the last hundred years or so. As a country we have spent far more than we have earned over the years and borrowed money to support a lifestyle way in excess of what we can afford.

Sadly, there comes a time when debt payments overtake your ability to pay and that day is not far off despite the groth in the economy.

There will come a time when interest rates will rise. Think about what they will do to the costs of govenment borrowing :-(

It will not matter who forms the government for many years to come, the facts are the country is financially broken and no one knows how to fix it. It will be a very long time, if ever, before the good times return.

In respect of Wolverhampton (and several other local authorities in this area), I find it amazing they seem to have adopted a head in the sand approach and kept their fingers crossed hoping the problem will go away.

It appears that although Sandwell Council are often the castigated in these pages for their problems, they appear to have been sufficiently forward thinking to have realised tough times are ahead and reacted accordingly by planning for cuts, introducing innovative ways of working etc to minimise the impact of "the cuts". If only Wolverhampton had been as well lead........

Margaret Hamilton

I just don't believe a word of it when they say the economy is back on the way up.

Wulfrunwoman

So I suppose this means that the bus station roof which leaks like a sieve will not be repaired now ?! Water cascades on to the floor near the entrance at the bottom of Queen Street. The first hard frost will turn the pavement into a skating rink. Wolverhampton council had better be ready to pay compensation to the people who fall on it and hurt themselves

Danimal

There is also the 500Million debt of which there is a massive yearly interest payment of many, many millions.

Emma Reynolds wants an apology - that's rich - and also says nothing of the actual issue at hand blah blah dodge the question.

Other councils Ms Reynolds are surviving because they are not spending any money and making cuts, Wolverhampton council is spending more than it is cutting and it doesn't take long until there is nothing left.

Labour have managed it in three years.

Raising the Council Tax by 2%. £10-20 increase a year to the people who actually pay Council Tax is not going to touch it especially as Wolverhampton has a massive amount of people claiming CT benefit. A public referendum is hardly going to let them pour more away.

There is currently £680,000 in uncollected business rates and £225,000 outstanding in unpaid rents. This info is dated so it is probably more now.

There is nearly a million in one sentence.

It seems to me the only option is to get the administrators in. People who will have to look at the books and have professional experience with dealing with budgets and balancing books because it seems to me the people doing it now can't and have failed this town miserably.

Oh Roger what have you done? I don't know how you sleep at night.

Like a baby I presume because none of this is your fault is it now?

mickymouse

Cllr Malcolm gwinnett.

having read all the comments on what has gone wrong by people and more importantly from Cllr Andrew Johnson and laying the full blame on the government I thought that its only correct to reply to you the people as I see it.

first of all yes there have been some major cuts since 2010 which all councillors knew they were coming , so if you bear in mind that up to 2010 the lib/dem and conservative group saved 44 million pound towards what we knew we were about to face in future years since that date what did the labour group save in the next 12 months when they took control,??? guess

nothing...

but they decided to spend , spend , spend , from 2011 to end of 2013 they spend or borrowed an amazing 60 million and have reduced the councils reserve down to £622 thousand pounds that's 9 million below the legal limit agreed with the auditers .

what did they and what are they waste money on.

20 million on a civic centre upgrade, when for h&s reasons they could have spent just 5 million saving 15 million, they have borrowed money to build a new office block near the station some £10 million when they could have upgraded the area where it was supposed to be for less than 2 million they could have upgraded several office blocks that lie empty saving £8 million,

I would add the most comical scheme is going to be the new road layout and in the city centre where less cars and people will come to Wolverhampton , less places to park , unwanted no entry roads, at a cost of £5 million pounds , yes some tweaking of roads ect is needed mainly replacing the pot holes by resurfacing , this project could have saved £4 million .

THESE ARE JUST THREE SCHEMES SAVING 27 MILLION POUNDS , I COULD GO ON AND ON , I HAVE BEEN SAYING FOR SEVERAL YEARS TO THE LABOUR GROUP " YOU MUST GO BACK TO BASICS " MEANING THINGS LIKE THE FRONTLINE SERVICES OF BIN COLLECTION, ROAD REPAIRS, LIGHTING , YOUR CHILDREN LOOKED AFTER , BETTER EDUCATION THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT THE PEOPLE WANT AND NEED.

BUT DO THEY LISTEN " NO " THEY JUST SAY YOU DONT KNW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT, WELL ITS ABOUT TIME SOME PEOPLE STEP DOWN BEFORE THE FINAL CURTAIN COMES DOWN

I HOPE SOME OF THIS MAKES SENSE TO YOU , I WILL READ YOUR COMMENTS HOPEFULLY SOON.

CLLR MALCOLM GWINNETT

Jacko

I almost choked when I read that the council has debts of 500 MILLION !

No messing about, they should stop all allowances for councillors immediately.

They should stop all translations of documents into foreign languages.

They should cut all fat cat pay packets by 60%.....if they don't like it they can leave.

The fraud squad should investigate how they got the finances into this mess.

Just think, what the Labour Party have done for the town, they can do the same for the entire country.

Man the life boats if Milliband and Ballsup-Cooper ever get in.

But let's not let the ToryLibs off the hook. They are talking about leaving reserves of 44 Million while at the same time they must also have been partly responsible for the debt of 500 Million.

They should all be booted into touch at the next election.

Then again, we have ways of making you happy......Barosso and Reading now admit they want a United States of Europe....... uber ales mein camarad

Blue Boy

The solution is clear, fail to deliver a balanced budget, and the government will take over. The Government could not fail, they would not cut all the services they would have to put money into the city. Can you image the Government saying they could run the country if they couldn't run a small city. Our local MP's have made money on the back of the city and sat on their hands watching the rest of us struggle, for the good of the people of Wolverhampton stop the political squabbling and hand the place over to the Government...........SIMPLE

charlie17

I would suggest that instead of blaming the Government and using the press to gain sympathy they would be better employed looking at ways to save or raise the money. Suggest they look at the property and land portfolio as a start. Sell the land to the highest bidder and do not specify that they need to construct another council pet project. Do swimming pools or leisure centres need to be Council owned again either lease them out to private enterprise or sell them but do not restrict the use, if the buyer wants to add a coffee shop or a restaurant and a bowling or skittles alley let them. These places make plenty of money when run privately because the staff know they make profit or lose their job. I believe that the Council still owns the Wolves ground if so sell it but make sure that the stadium is protected I perpetuity but allow reasonable development of commercial operations. Art Galleries and Libraries, the former should charge admission because the majority of visitors probably do not live in the city. Libraries can be mobile with the majority of books held centrally. You order your book on line and it is available from the corner shop on a specific day. No need to pay the shop I am sure they would welcome the opportunity to get more possible customers through the door. Stop whinging get on and sort it out be creative think outside of the box that you seem to be stuck in.

Chris

All this is just building up to a big council tax rise for 2014/15,the council is scare mongering again so it can justify a big hike in April for tax payers to stomach.

Danimal

Chris

There can only be legally a 2% rise which they have said they will do.

To get any more they would have to put it to public vote via a referendum.

Guess the outcome to that!

I too

Anything else Mr Uppal apart from what contributers here have already stated e.g. cut civic centre refurb

Reserves have been spent?

According to some data source the following is stated:

Figures are Total Usable Reserves, the first figure is Council and the second Group. The first set are at 31st march 2011, and those beneath those are for March 2012

Make your own minds up about reserves using the data! Not spurious comments.

151.6 140.0

157.2 144.6

Seems to me, a simpleton, that usable reserves have increased?

There is also evidence that 20 million was used from reserves.

I wonder what the total NNDR figure provided by Government to Wolverhampton are for the last 6 years were? Anyone know. Mr Uppal surely can find that out for us, can't you? As it is what Government hands out to Wolverhampton, as opposed to what Wolverhampton contributes to the NNDR pool. Non Domestic Rates

We wait with patience for the answer delivered by our MP.

Lets make that call by ALL his parishoners!

oldrocker

'These places make plenty of money when run privately because the staff know they make profit or lose their job.'

Classic Tory philosophy.

Work when I say for what I pay - there are 200 people outside waiting for your job.

charlie17

Unfortunately money does not grow on trees it is profit and reinvestment that improves our competitive position in the world. It is even more unfortunate that we have to sell to other countries and compete with China, India, etc who really do pay poor wages, but lets not worry borrow more money reduce the value of our currency against other currencies and pay more for our food, energy then increase the wages borrow more money reduce the value of our currency, need I continue. Does this affect our Council of course it does because as pay increases so does the Council Tax charge. I find it unacceptable that a family of 4 in a band A property who all work earning a total of say £100k pay less to run the city than a pensioner couple in a band C property on £20k think everyone should pay based on income.

fieldwolf

Agree with Blue Boy. The easiest, fastest way of fixing the problem is for WCC to be booted out and put into the equivalent of 'special measures'. For a government team to come in, strip out everything that is unnecessary and leave us with a slimmed down, essentials only council.

The finger pointing, moaning and blame game played out by the Labour run council is laughable. Most households pay £1000+ for their council tax and beyond street lighting and bin collections I struggle to see what you really see for that.

I suspect that most of my contribution goes on paying for other people's pensions (I have to pay for my own - defined contribution) and supporting other people who choose not to support themselves.

middley

How much is that lot costing in that room in the headline picture, when companies are continually losing money they make reductions (not always in the right areas) start off by looking at the biggest earners, then the number of councillors per ward and their salaries (if they get one) and expenses, the number of FREE parties they have, mayor making do's etc etc and stop the lot. The public would have some genuine sympathy with councils if they were cutting in the right places instead of carrying on as if nothing is happening. From what I can see Labour are very good at this, that's why the country was in a mess when they were voted out with their live for today policies. May I add that I don't much care for the Tories either, they are the rich peoples party and want to keep it that way.

Eddie S

Clearly it's Roger, Andrew et al's job to trash the finances of the City and destroy it's reputation beyond repair in ready for full integration into a 'Greater' Birmingham; If you think the City get's hard done by now, wait till it's a suburb of 'Brumscumland' and run by the likes of Yvonne Mosquito from Birmingham Town Hall!

What's the worst that can happen !

I wouldn't say that I fully understand how Councils operate, but what I do know is, that if the photograph at the top of this page is a typical Council gathering, then it is no surprise that the City is in the mess that it is.

A meeting of this scale will only ever be ineffective as will the vast majority of attendees.

As such, the Council is ineffective and we have no better than chaos management.

No wonder that we are in such a mess.

I too

I repeat: I wonder what the total NNDR figure provided by Government to Wolverhampton are for the last 6 years were? Anyone know. Mr Uppal surely can find that out for us, can't you?

I make the same call because the Tories on here are blaming the wrong team as expected but incorrect.

Until we know what the reductions in NNDR have been we are in the Darkness

Please Mr Uppal find out and bring Wolverhampton out of the darkness and into the light of true data. Not all this anti-labour fabricated hot air by Tories knowing they have been caught with their hands on the tiller steering Wolverhampton into poverty for the sake of the bankers.

What are the figures, Mr Uppal? Mr Osborne? Ms Tory Councillor Wendy?

Lets have the data now.

Prove me wrong with the data, please.

I vote Lib Dem by the way.

Old bilstonion

You are Kidding, Mr Uppal is a total light weight in this I would say Cllr Thompson should have an idea but wont say she's got the rest of the party to think about!

Euro Wolf

Let's get this clear in simple words. The bankers and other investors took us for a ride with their fantasy boom. We, the ordinary people, now have to pay for their excess through our tax when they use accountants to make sure they don't pay their share. Councils have been progressively destroyed as part of this return to the doff your cap, save for the doctor, religion-focused, militarized, slave labour era before the post-war settlement. The world that is rapidly coming to most of England is currently to be seen in Detroit. Look it up.

Old bilstonion

You see Cameron is being spiteful because the majority of people voted Labour back in so he his making the citizens pay.

All the Cllrs and high ranking officers should should do a press release and it should read:

'ladies and Gentle man citizens of Wolverhampton we are sorry that the city is in crisis, the fact is we are totally out of our LEAGUE.A special meeting will be arranged to pull together the best Cllrs from each political party who have a competent understanding of finance, they will be tasked with finding a solution which is innovative that will bring about recovery and economic stability to Wolverhampton.

Once again we are sorry....Signed all Cllrs and Officers.