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Walsall cuts to be 'even worse than feared'

Walsall | News | Published:

Cuts at Walsall Council will be even worse than feared in years to come, its new boss has warned - as he accused the previous leaders of failing to address the authority's dire finances.

Services will be slashed and charges will increase as the council faces £104m of savings over the next five years.

The council has to save £21 million in the current financial year. But new leader Sean Coughlan says even more will have to be slashed from the budget in the coming years.

The Labour group took control of the council earlier this month from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition.

And Councillor Coughlan said residents should be braced for more cuts.

The new cabinet has launched a survey for residents to have their say on what cuts should be made.

He said it was too early to reveal where the axe would fall but insisted the council would set long term plans rather than working year to year.

The council, when led by the Conservative and Liberal coalition, scrapped plans to close Walsall Museum and increase charges for sports clubs to use pitches.

But a subsidy to schools for pupils' dinners is being axed and headteachers are also being asked to pick up the tab for lollipop men and women at less risky sites or face the service being withdrawn, saving £85,000.

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The council faces £104m of savings over five years and more than 200 jobs have already gone.

Councillor Coughlan said: "This could be the toughest year yet of savings. Some services will remain, some will be run differently and some will have to cease.

"Some things that have been free we may need to charge for and where there are already charges these may increase. This isn't going to be easy for us and I know that Walsall people won't all be happy with every decision we make."

He added: "The financial position is worse than the previous administration was letting on and everything we were saying over the last year was true.

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"We thought the council was wrong to be making short term budget plans and we were right. If they had planned ahead we would not be in the situation we are now."

Total government grants for the council have fallen from £169.1m in 2012-13 to £146.9m for 2014-15 and a predicted £125.35m the year after.

The survey is available at www.walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay

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