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Axe falls in Walsall Council cuts

Walsall | News | Published:

Libraries will be closed, meals on wheels reduced and a market axed under a Black Country council's hard-hitting plan to save £65 million over the next three years, it can be revealed today.

Libraries will be closed, meals on wheels reduced and a market axed under a Black Country council's hard-hitting plan to save £65 million over the next three years, it can be revealed today.

Around 450 jobs will be lost at Walsall Council through both compulsory and voluntary redundancies.

Darlaston Market will be shut, creches axed and art galleries and museums' services cut back. The total saved by the measures will be £16.6m over 12 months.

Residents can also expect to see the cost of parking permits increased, less council-funded transport for the elderly and fewer street-cleaning staff and vehicles.

Redundancies will hit staff across the board and workers will also be given less overtime. All 16 libraries will be put under review and the lowest performing ones face closure.

The draft three-year savings plan was unveiled at last night's cabinet meeting, which had around 40 Unison protesters outside.

Council leader Mike Bird said: "This has not come without pain and suffering and many, many hours of work from officers and members. But we inherited an abomination from the previous government."

A total of 187 vacant posts will never be filled and the remaining job losses will be achieved through voluntary and compulsory redundancies. A total of 149 jobs are believed to be at risk in social care alone.

Councillor Bird said he was also determined to drive down sickness levels at the council, where the average worker has 12.07 days off a year due to sickness.

Other plans include the introduction of charges for tradesmen's parking dispensations, the closure of New Art Gallery Walsall on Sundays and bank holidays and the closure of creches at Oak Park and Bloxwich leisure centres. The council will approve the final revenue budget for 2011/12 on February 24 next year.

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