Walsall Council has been urged to fight against drastic funding cuts from central Government.
Walsall Against Cuts, which describes itself as a ‘cross party organisation fighting to stop all cuts’, says residents were ‘seriously worried’ after the authority announced its latest budget plans.
It held its latest held its latest meeting at The Royal Hotel on Ablewell Street, just hours after a press conference where Walsall Council bosses laid out its plan to save £86 million by 2020.
The proposals include raising council tax by nearly five per cent, axing hundreds of jobs and nine libraries.
Originally, the council proposed to shut 15 of the borough’s 16 libraries, leaving just Central Library on Lichfield Street open which would also incorporate the leather museum and local history centre.
However, six of the 15 at risk libraries are now to remain open, with the leather museum also staying put. Aldridge, Bloxwich, Brownhills, Darlaston and Willenhall libraries have all been saved, while Streetly library will be community run. Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention (Willenhall), Pelsall, Pheasey, Pleck, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood libraries will all close during the 2017/18 financial year.
Despite this news being revealed alongside the claim that the future of the New Art Gallery is to be saved, members of Walsall Against Cuts believe more can be done.
Speaking at the meeting, Martin Lynch, convenor of the group, said: “While obviously any reductions in cuts are to be welcomed, we are seriously worried that much of this is simply pain being put off in some cases and we feel the council needs to be taking the fight against the situation they find themselves in to central government.”
Mr Lynch, 65, from Birchills, added: “We want the council to work with us and other councils to demand that the government reconsider the cuts to local government funding they are making.
“For that to happen there needs to be a more proactive attitude and take a stand.”
During the meeting, where members discussed plans to hand over a 2,000 signature petition against the cuts to council bosses, members discussed their concern that the council were failing to inform people clearly of ‘the world we are walking into’.
Paul Rymer, 55, from St Matthews, said: “What has always concerned me is that people have no idea of how Walsall is going to look in three years time.
“Our council have done nothing to tell those people who are going to be most affected by the cuts exactly what will happen and how to prepare for that.
“They are avoiding using the word cuts, saying they are making savings and it isn’t clear to people the reality of the world we are walking into.”
Mark Webster, 57, from Caldmore, said that his time collecting signatures for the groups petition had given him an idea of the strength of feeling in the borough regarding the effect the cuts could have.
He said: “Every single person who has signed our petition has a story to tell, each of them is scared for what the future might hold.
“This isn’t about party politics, we are trying to represent the voice of those people.”Subscribe to our Newsletter