Sweeping £19 million cuts to services at cash-strapped Walsall Council will hit ‘the weakest’ in society, the leader of the opposition Labour group claimed today.
Councillor Tim Oliver, who heads the 28 Labour members on the authority, also said the sudden announcement of the cuts on Tuesday evening angered opposition councillors who were given no prior warning of the proposals or their publication.
He said: “The cabinet has announced massive cuts to services that protect the weakest and most dependent members of our community. Even a brief examination of these plans show children, the old, disabled and the ill will all suffer alongside an as yet unannounced toll of lost jobs which will hit Walsall’s local economy hard.
“Yet nowhere in the council’s official statement is there a word of regret or a hint of an apology for the government policies the council cabinet supports and willing imposes.”
Taxpayers are being asked whether they want to protect services or see their council tax bills rise after a huge consultation over the proposals was launched.
Children’s services will have £5m being axed from its budget next year.
The department came under fire last year when Ofsted judged safeguarding services and its capacity to improve as inadequate, although it has since improved to adequate.
Nearly £6m will be cut from the social care bill as the council aims to save £100m over the next five years amid Government cuts. Included in the list of proposals in the council’s draft budget are plans to close Walsall Museum in Lichfield Street, saving £70,000. Grants to allotment associations could be cut by 50 per cent, saving £20,150, and £480,000 is set to be saved by re-negotiating a contract for providing respite care.
A £165,000 cut to the bereavement service will be plugged by a rise in fees and charges. The council still plans to spend £620m in the 2014/15 financial year.
Walsall Council deputy leader Adrian Andrew said: “I am confident that we can deliver first class services across the board and we are working very hard to safeguard those areas most important to residents.”